– During coverage of the Liberian civil war
The office of President George Weah says it attention has been drawn to concerns coming from Jonathan Paye-Layleh, a Correspondent of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Monrovia, seeking clarification from his recent interaction with the President at the Press Stakeout with the President and Madam Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, an Executive Mansion has said in a release.
According to the release, Mr. Paye-Layleh is concerned about President Weah’s response to a question he asked about his position on calls for prosecution of individuals said to have perpetrated acts inimical to the respect for human rights during the Liberian civil crises.
The Office of the President, however, clarifies that as a longtime champion of human rights and an ardent advocate of peace and social justice, President Weah only sought to remind Mr. Paye-Layleh in his response to question asked; that when he (Weah) was advocating for justice and creating awareness to the gross human rights violations that were being perpetrated against the Liberian people during the 14 years civil conflict, “Paye-Layleh and others were bent on undermining his efforts by depicting a positive image of the carnage.”
“However, contrary to Mr. Paye-Layleh’s concerns, President Weah’s response should be seen in the context of his determination to foster peace, reconciliation and forgiveness,” the release said.
As Head of State, the release added, President Weah wants all Liberians to follow his footsteps by expressing their feelings in the spirit of genuine reconciliation and national unity.
“The President is in no way against Mr. Paye-Layleh as he is trying to portray, neither does the response seek to target him. As a journalist, he remains a strong partner of the President who has pledged to uphold the Table Mountain Declaration, which allows free speech and press freedom and not to witch-hunt him or any other Liberian,” the release assured.
It can be recalled that President Weah, at a joint press conference on Thursday, March 22, with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amin Mohammed, evoked fears and memories of the country’s brutal past where journalists were some of those victimized by the power that be on grounds that they too were ‘enemy’ to the state.
But for President Weah, he openly described Paye-Layleh as “one person that has been against” him even in his (Weah’s) advocacy over the years.
Many see this as a veiled threat against not only Paye-Layleh but against the media and free speech as well. Journalist Paye-Layleh is now reported to be living in fear for his life. He has meanwhile appealed to his colleagues in the media to seek clarification from the President on the true import of his statement accusing him (Paye-Layleh) as being against him.
“I have asked the Press Union of Liberia and the entire media community to seek an explanation from Mr. President, because I have never had any confrontation with him even before he became president; we all have instead given promotion to all that he has done, as footballer, former footballer and as a politician; he was never in any human rights work as far as I know and even if he was in any human rights struggle, I could never have been against him for working for human rights in Liberia,” Paye-Layleh said.
According to local media watchers, the loaded import of President Weah’s remark to the journalist apparently may have induced Paye-Layleh to write the Press Union appealing to his colleagues in the media to seek clarification from President Weah, being fully aware and apprehensive about what such remarks could mean and how it could be interpreted by state security or the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) zealots.
“All that I am asking the media community to do is to seek some explanation from the office of the President; such a statement from a populist and popular President has far-reaching impact; you can never tell what this would mean to Mr. President’s tens of thousands of supporters, some of whom are too young to be able to analyze issues.”
Paye-Layleh believes a clear explanation from the President or his office citing instances will give an insight into what the allegations are, adding, “When a president says an individual is or was against him, it means a lot.”