Liberian Press Mourns Veteran Journalist, Philip Wesseh

The death is announced of Mr. Phillip N. Wesseh, Managing Editor of The Inquirer Newspaper and a long time reporter and editor of the Daily Observer newspaper.

This sad event occurred between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., September 14, 2022 at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, following a protracted period of illness.  He was 64 years old.

Born on August 24, 1958, young Philip started his journalistic career shortly following his graduation from D. Twe Memorial High School in New Kru Town, Monrovia, in 1981.  He was the second D. Twe High School graduate to join the Daily Observer.  The first was Mr. Gabriel I. H. Williams, who the Vice Principal at D. Twe, Rachel A.B. Cox-George, brought to Daily Observer publisher, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, saying her student wanted to become a journalist.  Gabriel was immediately employed and soon became a prominent and highly productive member of staff. 

Gabriel remained with the Daily Observer for a number of years until one day Liberian Head of State Samuel K. Doe’s powerful and ruthless Defense Minister Gray D. Allison threatened to whip Gabriel mercilessly in the streets of Monrovia following a news story Gabriel had done on the Defense Ministry.  “If I take you into the streets in Monrovia right now and give you 25 lashes on your bare back, nobody will say anything,” Minister Allison threatened the young reporter.

On his new job at the Daily Observer newspaper Phillip Wesseh, energetic and highly productive, was soon publishing lead stories in rapid succession under his byline. He was eventually elevated to the position of News Editor, at the helm of the Observer newsroom, where he was chosen over several senior reporters for his impressive performance.  Philip was at the Observer until the outbreak of the 14-year civil war, which led to the Observer being shut down and its offices and printing facilities destroyed. 

In January 1991, several former editorial staff members of the Observer launched The Inquirer, an independent newspaper which became a leading newspaper and a credible source of information in Liberia. The founding Managing Editor of The Inquirer was Mr Gabriel Williams, who Mr Wesseh succeeded as Managing Editor in 1994 after Williams fled Liberia due to death threats from the armed factions involved in Liberia’s civil war. 

As Managing Editor of The Inquirer, they called him ‘Ginnah’, a nickname for the way in which he ran his newsroom — a parody of the ‘zoe bush’, the traditional society in Liberian culture. For him, the newsroom was sacrosanct, especially during the war years when ranking state security agents at the time would often brazenly intrude, inspect and alter newspaper headlines at the printing press, without the knowledge or consent of a newspaper’s own editors. 

During the civil war, the building housing the offices of The Inquirer was attacked and completely burnt down to the ground because of the paper’s strong advocacy against human rights abuses perpetrated by the contending armed factions.

Over the last decade, Wesseh received a national honor from the then President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He also attended and graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia, and was admitted into the Liberia National Bar Association as an Attorney-at-Law. He primarily applied his lawyering through legal analyses and opinion, often adding value to the discourse on national issues in The Inquirer

Mr. Wesseh continued to serve as Managing Editor of The Inquirer until he became very ill, leading to his unfortunate demise. 

In 2021, he was flown to Accra, Ghana for advanced medical care, following which he was confined to a wheelchair.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.