Liberia's media union confirms BBC correspondent seeks safety in US

Monrovia, Liberia (PANA) – The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Liberia correspondent, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, has confirmed he is in the United States to seek safety after a recent statement from President George Weah the journalist deems a “threat” to his life.

In a statement on Thursday, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said President Weah’s continuing silence on his recent outburst against the BBC correspondent, accusing him of undercutting his (President Weah’s) fight for human rights in Liberia, has “forced the journalist to leave Liberia.”  

“My absence from Liberia at the moment is a combination of both a health check trip I had planned and the compelling need to get and stay out of the country for some time in the wake of the situation (involving President Weah),” the journalist said in a letter to the Union.

“But even if the option will be deciding finally to settle somewhere outside of Liberia until my safety is guaranteed in the form of asylum, God willing, I will come back to my family to help with the making of that decision,” the letter added.

During a meeting of media executives Thursday in Monrovia, media leaders alarmed at the disturbing trend that threats, intimidation and harassment of journalists has taken recently in Liberia.

The March 22 comments of President Weah and the attending clarifications from the Presidency have left the media community in Liberia susceptible to threats, intimidationsand harassment from officials of government and ordinary members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, the media union stressed.

President Weah had accused journalist Paye-Layleh of being against him and his work for human rights in Liberia. Weah won Liberia’s election by more than 61 per cent of the total vote cast during a runoff poll in the 2017 elections.

Before the President’s comment, different officials of the Weah government had intensified their collective rage against the media in Liberia.  

Media leaders urged the Press Union to continuously ask for a meticulous step-by-step fact which can explain when, where, why, what and how Paye-Layleh injured the President’s work for human rights in Liberia.

They insisted that it will also satisfy the Liberian journalism community were Mr. President to include in his explanation to the world, evidence that will back claims of Jonathan depicting a positive image of the carnage of the Liberian Civil War during his coverage as claimed by Weah.  

The media executives asserted that the President’s prolonged silence on the “unprovoked slam on journalist Paye-Layleh can coward journalists into self- censorship, considering the popularity of President Weah.”  

Meanwhile, the Liberian media leaders urged the PUL to alert the world that media in Liberia is “returning to the dark era of dictatorship” during President Taylor’s rule.

They noted that media Institutions are barely surviving because of low activities in the national economy coupled with intentions to strangulate the media through the withholding of adverts by some officials.

With the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Government is the biggest player in the media economy.

Moreover, the PUL is urging all journalists and media institutions to “remain professional in fearlessly reporting Liberia for the good of the state and its people.”
-0- PANA PTK/AR 5April2018

05 Abril 2018 17:35:23

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