BBC’s Paye-Layleh Surfaces in the United States

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Jonathan Paye-Layleh, BBC correspondent in Liberia

An insecure Jonathan Paye-Layleh has reportedly left Liberia and is said to have surfaced in the city of New York, United States. The BBC and Associated Press reporter has since expressed fears for his life after President George Manneh Weah accused him of having been against him (Weah) and his advocacy for human rights during the Liberian civil war, long before he contested and won the presidency.

According to Airport and other sources, a weary Paye-Layleh was sported at the RIA leaving the country.

The President’s statement was not received well and political observers saw an ominous sign suggesting that the statement was tantamount to a threat on the journalist’s life. Mr. Paye-Layleh, in an open letter appealed to Mrs. Clar Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and the Press Union of Liberia to seek clarity from the president, since it was never reported before the country’s long-running war that President Weah was involved in any advocacy for human rights that anyone, particularly a journalist objected to.

President Weah made the accusation against the journalist during a Press Stakeout at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the presence of Madam Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The BBC stringer had asked a question relating to the civil war, which killed thousands of Liberians, as to whether President Weah and the United Nations were willing to support the setting up of a world crimes court as requested of the President by Human Rights Watch, to create an avenue for victims of the Liberian wars to face their alleged perpetrators.

Rather than answer the question, the president accused Paye-Layleh of perpetually not being in favor of his role as a human rights activist  during the war years in Liberia. In an apparent attempt to provide clarity to what President Weah might have actually intended to say to the journalist. However  the Executive Mansion in a release apparently compounded the journalist’s fears when it said Mr. Paye Layleh had done something wrong to the President in the past.

“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,” an Executive Mansion release said.

But Mr. Paye-Layleh fears that these comments from the pinnacle of authority in the country have dire implications for his life especially considering the popularity of the President who allegedly has thousands of ardent followers some of whom could take matters into their own hands and bring harm to his life because the President had indicated Paye-Layleh was not in his favor.

The situation according to observers, was reminiscent of two disappearances that took place during the  administration of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, involving the mysterious deaths of the late Cllr. Michael Allison and Harry Greaves  whose bodies were found on the beach near the Atlantic Ocean. Although foul play ws suspected in both cases, the Liberia National Police however attributed their deaths to drowning  ruled out any suggestions that the men had been surreptitiously killed.

Reliable sources told the Daily Observer that the renowned journalist departed Liberia on Sunday night through the Roberts International Airport.

He had earlier attended a church service during which the congregation prayed for him after he had explained to the congregation the situation between him and President George Weah growing out of the March 22 press stakeout at the Foreign Ministry.

The purpose of his trip remains unclear, but observers hold the view that the BBC and The Associated Press correspondent may probably bee seeking asylum in the United States of America owing to statements by President Weah accusing him of being an adversary.

22 COMMENTS

  1. It is true that the journalist should fear for his life, equally so, this is not equal to the Charles Gbayon episode in 1985. We Liberians are quick to jump “the gun”, especially when “our man’ is not the one on Capital Hill. The president might had chosen the wrong choice of word, however; I don’t think anything negative would have happen to the journalist. The individual in the executive seat today is not of the same character of the individual in 1985, or 1944-1971. This government is 73 days old, from the day of the inaugural ball. The first casualty! of the PRC came 5 days, when 4 army officers were executed by firing squad who were accused of looting, and 11 days (April 23,1980), 13 former government officials were executed by firing squad! a gruesome way to “justice”. After that, a series of PHANTOM COUPES.

    No one is been mad handled since January 22, by order of the chief executive. We know there are bad elements out there willing to go the extra length to harm others, however; this is not a CASUALITY of the magnitudes that we have witnessed in the past. We Liberians hope that this will not glare in the face of the ‘international community’, that will make Liberians seeking ‘safe haven’ in drove.

  2. Wondering why Paye-Layleh has blown this out of proportion? I read the article that referenced the president’s comments and there’s absolutely no fish in that article to warrant such unnecessary alarm. Come on!! What da heck??? Can Paye-Layleh just seek asylum or whatever giving some tangible reasons rather than this cheap propaganda. Chay!!!!!

    • Perhaps Paye-Layleh is only well aware that life / lives in Liberia is cheap. Not so surprising that he fled as Weah is busy flexing whatever muscle he has. Beware of taking a heavy handed approach President Weah when you don’t have a plan on how to handle issues you would rather avoid. Scaring off the press is not a good approach to take. Keep your friends close and your potential enemies closer.

  3. You guys defending President Weah and claiming Paye Layleh is blowing the situation out of proportion need to think twice of the clarity provided by the Executive Mansion. President Weah will be a dictator since he doesn’t do any wrongs in the eyes of his blind loyalists.

    Let Paye Layleh seek asylum because CDCIANS are zealous and even people you think are logical lose their sense of dignity and truth when they joined the CDC. The journalist has every right to take precautions for his life because you never know what will happen under the cover of darkness. Too many criminals and killers still around in Liberia.

  4. WE LIBERIANS ARE OUR OWN PROBLEM. WE USE SITUATIONS TO GET AT EACH OTHERS AND TO HAVE OUR HEART DESIRE. IF MR.PAYE LAYLEH WANTED TO GO TO AMERICA HE SHOULD HAVE USE A DIFFERENT METHOD OR TRICK OTHER THAN USING PRESIDENT WEAH AS HIS MEDIUM TO GET TO THE US.

    MR. WEAH WAS ONLY STATING HIS FEELING ABOUT HIM. EVERY ONE KNOWS PAYE LAYLEH IS A RENOUNCE INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST WHO WILL WANT TO HURT HIM.

  5. Nobody has time to hurt him, the president is focused on better things than wasting his time going after this man. What the president was simply trying to say was, you should have supported me when I was trying to preach this message but you chose to undermine me, why now that I’m president and you want to preach the same old thing you rejected. The President doesn’t mean harm.

    • True to that. Well said. This matter doesn’t have any grain of salt for a personality like Janathan Paye-Layley to seek an escape out of liberia to the US. It is the ugly face of politics or power ( falsewood) that Mr. Pay-lay has decided to use because he doesn’t fancy the CDC led government. There is no one hurt or in prison by this government for any one to dress this democratic instrument with a mask of anarchy for a politicial or famous gain.

    • It’s better safe than sorry. It’s not the president that will harm him. It’s his followers who will take his words out of context and do the unthinkable. It’s happened before with Charles Agbeyor and it could happen again. We only live once and the journalist values his life like we all do.

  6. Fellow Liberians it is expedient to understand that as a public figure and especially a government official, you have to be very careful of how you utter your words.The presidency is not a Litmus test spot or a trial and error conduit.
    Mr. President, no matter what happened in the past you will have to forgive and forget all those vices, and move ahead with the challenges and hurdles that our nation is faced with. It is about time that you focus your attention in creating a wholesome and functioning society where all Liberians can enjoy the fruit of their country.
    You are now the father of the Home and all those that are in your home be it the bad or the good children, it is your responsibility to groom and nurture them for the best of society. Do not engage in keeping hatred or holding in to gossips as a leader, because these are vices that will erode any good government or administration.
    Mr. president, remember that you are no more a leader for a certain group of people , but for the whole nation and you will have to know that no matter how much the past had you with anybody, it is about time to move forward and create a better leadership that we all will embrace. Performing above and beyond is your challenge Mr. Preaident.
    The past is your heritage and the future is your challenge. Nous Sommes Jamais oblirions la guerre civille au liberie. La guerre ces pas bonne.
    We must never forget the civil war that took place in our country, because war is not good. God bless our President and God bless the people and country of Liberia.

  7. I hope and pray that everything will workout peacefully. Let’s all calm down.
    Peace. I am the dove with an olive branch. I position myself between the Weah forces and the Paye-Layleh forces. I side with no one, but wll-positioned in the middle. Each supporter has his or her positions. Those positions weigh heavily on me. Of course, they are of equal weight. Guess what? I really understand your line of argument. When all is said and done, we’ll have no choice but to move on.

    Peace Weah’s forces!

    Peace Paye-Layleh forces.

  8. Most commentators are missing the point here.
    The journalist is not saying that President Weah wants to harm him or not. What he is saying is that with the perceived differences, some blind loyal supporters of CDC may use this as malice to attack and or kill him. For any reasonable person living in Liberia today, this is not a far fetched illusion. President Weah, as a person, may not order or sanction these individuals but when the damage is done, it is done.
    Remember what happened to Counselor Allison and Harry Greaves? Were these acts sanctioned by Ma Ellen? You be the JUDGE!!!

  9. It’s better safe than sorry. It’s not the president that will harm him. It’s his followers who will take his words out of context and do the unthinkable. It’s happened before with Charles Agbeyor and it could happen again. We only live once and the journalist values his life like we all do.

  10. Im not a George Weah fanatic but I remember this Jonathan Pay-Layleh in the 90s when rebel were raging hell in Gbanga and Monrovia. This guy was a big rebel sympathizer. Instead of offering balance reporting he used his power as a BBC correspondence to spread all kinds of garbage about the AFL that was doing their best to defend Liberia’s sovereignty against Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson. Mr. Pay Layleh had absolutely no problem with Prince Johnson and Taylor when they commanded their 10 and 11 years old fighters to cut pregnant women open just so they could determine the tribes of their fetus. But he was unshakable when it came to reporting all kind of falsehoods about the AFL, Joseph Tailey, Butt Naked, Roosevelt Johnson etc. Pay Layleh even helped Ellen to trick Jackson F. Doe his own Gio brother to go and stay with Charles Taylor in Gbanga. Of course, we all know now how Jackson Doe was murdered by Ellen and Taylor over their fear that Jackson Doe would take over the presidency in the event Taylor was to be successful in unseating Samuel Doe. I understand when it comes to the civil war we are all guilty of supporting one faction or the other. But if there was a particular group of Liberian that should have shown some degree of impartiality, it was Liberian journalists. However, journalists Pay Layleh and most of his colleagues in out of Liberia who were to give voice to the voiceless masses failed to live up to that billing. We welcome his idea for a war crime court in Liberia. But, he is one of those that by their actions or inactions caused the deaths of so many of our brothers and sisters. Hence, he should prepare himself to answer some hard questions about the part(s) he played in the Liberian crisis whenever this war crime court established for Liberia.

    • Well said!! Liberians and our so called media practitioners do not know that irresponsible reporting damages the image of Liberia as a whole? We all heard Mr. Paye Lehleh reports on BBC. Now let’s ask ourselves, is it a lie that when the President was then advocating for and telling the world about Liberia’s carnage taking place, the particular individual was painting the rebels as Saints? If it’s a lie, then the president is in error, but am sure if we go down memory lane all his correspondence can be replayed and heard by all to hear. So if he asked a question about war crimes court, he should also be tried and prosecuted for misleading the world about the carnage taking place by the rebels, because in the case of Rwanda, journalists who were broadcasting hate messages to fuel the genocide were tried and jailed, he aided the crimes through his reporting. I am sure we’re all aware of the advocacy of peace by the president then. In the new dispensation of rebuilding Liberia, we are all involved,be it opposition, the press et al. If the press feel reporting bad publicity about the government helps sell their papers for financial gains to the detriment of the country, they will keep printing papers for a population that can not afford to buy the newspapers because of their bad reportage that dints the country’s image and scare away investors,it’s always a two way street, so let everyone be objective and truthful

  11. Can you blame Jonathan Paye-Layleh for fleeing an unpredictable climate that is hostile towards the media led by CDC died-hard Fanatics?

    Is Liberia heading down a slippery slope to its dark dictatorial days when press freedom and citizens who criticized the government of President Doe and Taylor were crushed in Liberia? Liberians vividly remember when journalists were imprisoned and sometimes murdered for criticizing the government.

    The press freedom that all Liberians enjoyed over the last twelve years under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should not be eroded by this new government through suppression, intimidation, threats, and whatever subversive tactics.

    President Weah is no longer representing one segment of the Liberian population, his CDC followers. President Weah should bear in mind he is now the President of Liberia, which means he has taken the oath to defend the constitution of Liberia and represent the entire population of Liberia and not preferential treatment to his supporters.

    President Weah’s un-presidential reprimand, his utterance, his rebuke, his scolding of Johnathan Paye-Layleh for carrying out his press duty could arouse President Weah’s staunch loyalists, Weah’s CDC militant supporters, his social media propagandist, Mr. Dortu-Siboe Doe, who all think President Weah is so sanctimonious……that he can do no wrong.

    Such brain-washed, cult mentality could cause his died-hard supporters to retaliate on an innocent individual or individuals for carrying out their day-to-day duty of simply exercising every Liberian citizen’s right to free speech and their democratic duties of criticizing their leaders which is universal human rights.

    Liberia’s new democracy cannot wholly function if free press and free speech are not allowed to be exercised responsibly in a free society. The duty of a free press is to circulate news, inform, comment, and hold those in authority accountable…..even if it means President George Manneh Weah….the sanctimonious all sanctity (holy of holy)….CDC Leader.

    The press is cardinal to a functional democracy because it serves as a watchdog: the press disseminates and conveys what is going on in a democratic society. That is, if Liberia, under the leadership of this CDC Government purports to hold these tenets of a Democratic nation…called Liberia.

    Do you blame Mr. Saye-Layleh, who spent half his life as a news reporter, from leaving an unfriendly media territory like Liberia?

    I, too, would leave Liberia as fast as I can. You never know when and where you will be ambushed by President Weah’s CDC died-hard fanatics just for criticizing their CDC Cult leader!!!

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