-As Paye-Layleh Returns
In a rather dramatic move, BBC stringer Jonathan Paye Layleh has returned to the country barely a month following his flight into exile out of fear of harm by zealots of populist Liberian President George Manneh Weah. Paye Layleh fled the country following remarks by President Weah accusing the journalist of undermining his advocacy for human rights during the course of the Liberian civil war.
Paye Layleh’s return is said to have been influenced first and foremost by his mentor, retired media executive Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best of the Daily Observer who in its April 9, 2018 editorial entitled, “Jonathan, Come Home You Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself” and by the Liberian media in general including the Press Union of Liberia. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as well as the Associated Press (AP) is reported to have weighed in on the matter.
It may be recalled that Paye Layleh fled the country a little over two weeks ago in the wake of remarks by President Weah accusing him of undermining his advocacy role for human rights during the course of the Liberian civil war. President Weah made the remarks at a press stakeout with visiting UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in response to questions posed by Paye Layleh who sought to know whether President Weah would establish a war crimes tribunal as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation report.
But President Weah’s rather knee-jerk response, accusing Paye Layleh of being against him at the time when he was advocating for human rights during the Liberian civil war, triggered Paye Layleh’s flight response. Out of fear Paye Layleh wrote President Weah a letter seeking clarification. When the response appeared not to be forthcoming, Paye Layleh wrote another letter threatening to put himself in harm’s way by lying prostrate in the way of President Weah’s convoy to end his life.
The Executive Mansion responded with a statement that read “The Office of the President clarifies that as a long-time champion of human rights and an ardent advocate of peace and social justice, he only sought to remind Mr. Paye Layleh during his response to question asked, that when he was advocating for justice and creating awareness of the gross human rights violations that were being perpetrated against the Liberian people during the fourteen years civil conflict, he (Paye-Layleh) and others were bent on undermining his efforts by depicting a positive image of the carnage.”
Rather than help, the statement from the Executive Mansion further inflamed the situation and triggered even stronger response from the media as well as from the public with statements calling President Weah’s professed commitment to media freedom into question. Paye Layleh, much to the surprise of the public later surfaced in New York City apparently to seek asylum from perceived persecution in Liberia.
His sudden and surprise return to the country barely a month after he fled has led to a flurry of suggestions and speculations that the BBC and AP through the British and French governments may have prevailed on President Weah to reconsider his position and pave the way for Paye Layleh’s dramatic return.