The Journalist Who “Insulted” Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor

Another case of a new “journalistic culture” in post-war Liberia

By Samuel G. Dweh—Print Journalist, Fiction writer, Author—+231 (0)886618906/776583266/samuelosophy@yahoo.com

“Journalist” Sekou Sheriff on his “beat”

The writer of this article is a High School student. This article ends with recommendations—solution methods

Author’s clarification (setting the record straight): I am not a propagandist (for) Her Excellency, Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia; neither am I the VP’s “defender” (against) His Excellency, Dr. Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia or any of his “defenders”.  I’m only playing my “journalistic” (or patriotic) role: Speaking against one of the “ills” in our Society (Liberia), which have created several

“political cracks” in the walls of our Country and resulted to “under-development” of the Nation in all areas.

I, too, am a journalist. And I am a member of Liberia’s National Journalists’ body—Press Union of Liberia (PUL)—this “insulter” against the Liberia’s current Vice President’s  (is) a member of.

THE  NOTED “JOURNALISTIC SKILL” OF SEKOU SHERIFF

For the sake of “balance” of this article, I would admit that this guy has one of the main “qualifications” for being on the radio: Eloquence (clarity of pronunciation of “majority” of English words). He pronounces (most) of the words correctly anytime he’s on the Radio. On diction, he beats “majority” of his electronic-media colleagues (Liberians practicing in Liberia) who often “lacerate” the Queen’s Language when they are “presenting”—reading the news, doing “continuity”, giving profile of a guest in the studio, etc.

THE MAIN ISSUE

On one of his “political Talk Shows” (between 22-23 January, 2020), Journalist Sekou Sheriff asserted that Liberia’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Tayor, gave to her “boyfriend” the official vehicle the Government of Liberia had given to her, and that “sense should beaten into the Vice President’s head”. Journalist’s Sheriff’s Show is on over Freedom FM of an “independent” Radio Station, Freedom Communication, allegedly owned by a top Government official at the National Security Service (NSA)

Mr. Sheriff’s two assertions were his reactions to Vice President Taylor’s “complaints” on being denied (some) of the “incentives” due the Office of the Vice President of Liberia as mandated by the Constitutions of Liberia.

JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF—THE PRESIDENT’S “DEFENDER”

Liberia’s Head of State George Manneh Weah

During the same Talk Show, Journalist Sekou Sheriff spoke on the “sour relationship” (political friction) between the President and the Vice President and put the latter (Vice President) in the “offender” position. He’s on many political observers’ records for never “balancing” his “commentaries” on current “fractious ideological differences” between the Nation’s #1 and #2 citizens. He has always placed only the VP in the “offender” position and often makes the President appear like an “angel” (no “natural flaw” in his speech or action) One of the President’s “natural blemish”—which most of those in his inner political circle often leak to outsiders—is “haughtiness”. This “nature” often prevents his resisting “reconciliatory efforts” by “peacemakers” determined to rekindle harmonious relationship between him and his perceived “political enemies” (ideologists)

Most part of the Liberian Nation now knows that the political relationship between the Head of State and his Deputy is not cordial, unlike when they were merging their respective political parties to “defeat” the Unity Party carrying then-sitting Vice President Joseph Nymah Boakai as Flagbearer to replace outgoing Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had ruled for two terms of twelve years. (Don’t be fooled to think that there is a  “cordiality” between Liberia’s #s1& 2 just from seeing the “oozing smiles” of the VP behind the President on banners with information insinuating “peace between the President and the VP”. This is a political blind fool by the President’s propagandists).

Most people “sensed” this “rift” in the VP’s absence at the official resumption of the Legislative Branch of Government, held at the Capitol Building (Liberia’s Parliament House) on January 27, 2020. The VP is the Head of the Senate and is constitutionally mandated to be present at such occasion. Only the President was present.

JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF’S REMORSELESS & OBSTINACY

Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor

Since his insult of the Nation’s Vice President, Mr. Sheriff has been stuck to his position of showing disrespect for her. In one of his subsequent Shows, on Friday, January 17, 2020, he bragged that he wasn’t wrong on use of the invective. And at the end of the Show he said: “On Monday, I will throw another bomb.”

Up to the time I’m writing this article (Monday, February 3, 2020), almost a month following his insult of the Vice President, “Journalist” Sekou Sheriff is still being “retained” at Freedom FM on “Executive Favor” and moving boisterously  around in the aura of “executive Protection”.  Dare not “sack” or “touch” the “defender” of the Commander-in-Chief of Liberia’s Armed Forces and the President’s “political loyalists” (in Government)!

HAS THE VICE PRESIDENT RESPONDED TO THE JOURNALIST’S “INSULT”?

There has been no “official comment” from VP Howard-Taylor or from her Office to anybody or group at a public function on Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s invective against her. This “official silence” shows her intelligence majority of Liberians (in and out of the national political arena) respect her for.  And her “political propagandist team” has hasn’t launched an “official reprisal attack” against the “insulter”. If one of her “nationally popular” loyalists {on radio} had “insulted” President Weah (being defender by Journalist Sekou Sheriff), the opposite would have happened: people would be verbally attacking (especially on the Social Media) somebody (non-Pastor) using part of a Church Service to “complain” about the invective.

LIBERIANS’ CONDEMNATIONS TO JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF’S INSULT AGAIN THE VICE PRESIDENT

Many Liberians have reacted against the “insults” against Vice Jewel Howard-Taylor through the various media platforms including the Social media ones: Facebook, etc.

The Press Union of Liberia (PUL)—struggling with “taming” Union’s members often committing “professional transgression” (like the one member Sekou Sheriff did against the Country’s Vice President)—has waded in the matter, but reprimanded the media entity (Freedom FM)  Journalist Sekou Sheriff works, for instead of the main “doer of the act”. In its Press Statement (titled “Unprofessional conduct of Freedom FM Radio”,  published on January  27, 2020,) on the “insult against the Vice President”, under the signature of the Union’s President, Mr. Charles B. Coffey, Jr., the PUL asserted: “The station is instituting itself as a character of abhorrence, thus prompting uncertainty in the country. In particular reference to  the station’s  Wednesday, January 22  and  Thursday  23, 2020  morning broadcast  during  which   it  rained invective on Vice President Jewell Howard Taylor, the PUL  indicated  that  it  is uncultured and disgusting. We reiterate that Freedom FM spreading of insult laden broadcast against top leaders of Liberia runs contrary to all qualities of civil democratic discourses…The PUL is concerned because the media are sometimes used as proxies in the battle between rival political groups, in the process sowing divisiveness rather than consensus, hate speech instead of sober debate…”

Reacting to the PUL’s “condemnatory” Press Statement (relayed by other media entities), Mr. Sekou Sheriff fired back on his Show of Friday, January 18, describing the Union as an “irrelevant Institution” and calling the Union’s President a “begarr”, who goes around and begs for money from political opponents on the pretext that he’s doing it for the benefit of the Union. (The Union’s President is yet to react to this “begging” allegation)

Prior to his invective against the Vice President, Journalist Sekou Sheriff had been suspended as member of the Press Union of Liberia. In a chat with some members of the PUL on suspended member Sekou Sheriff at his office, president Coffey explained: “It is because of this often use of profane language on his Show against other Liberians the leadership of the PUL suspended him, but many persons lashed out at the Union’s leadership for the action. Now, hear him insulting Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, similar to what pushed the ”

The Youth Wing of President George Weah’s political Party, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), also condemned the Journalist’s insult against the VP. The CDC is now in a political merger with the VP’s political bloc—National Patriotic Party (NPP)—and three other political parties making up a bigger political block named Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)

GEORGE M. WEAH-LED GOVERNMENT’S INTERVENTION.

One effective means used by the George Weah’s administration to stop “hate speech” (continued over a long time) by any (independent) media institution is to close down the entity. One example, for this article, is the Government’s closure of Roots FM, owned by popular U.S.A.-based popular Liberian “political commentator” Mr. Henry Costa, who later became a “household name”—in Liberia and beyond—after he organized two successful “mass protests”  against Mr. George Weah’s government to quickly end solve the Country’s strangulating economic problems that have caused impoverishment of more than half of the Country’s population. The first mass movement was on June 7, 2019—and later became nationally known as “June  7 Protest”

The George Weah-led Government has not closed Freedom FM (Allegedly owned by a top official of the Government) for its management “permitting” airing of invective against Liberia’s #2 Citizen—the Vice President. One of similar things Henry Costa’s Roots FM was shut down! Is this not “political partiality” on the part of the George Manneh Weah-led Government of Liberia?

 

Many concerned Liberians are expecting President Weah’s official “condemnation” to Sekou Shehriff’s invective against his “Deputy” (VP Howard-Taylor) or is the President “silence” a politically-motivated “transferred vendetta” against the VP on the “psychological torture” her then husband—Charles Taylor (Head of State)—subjected him (footballer & “presidential-ambition-nurturing” George Weah) to?

Only in the Press Union of Liberia’s leadership—Sekou Sherrif imbroglio has the Government “intervened” through the Ministry of Justice.

JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF—THE PRESIDENT’S “DEFENDER”

According to an official of the Press Union of Liberia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, in October of 2019, the Justice Ministry officially invited Mr. Sekou Sheriff and the PUL’s leadership to a “peace meeting”, but the Freedom FM’s man never showed up at the meeting. “Up to today, the Ministry of Justice has never punished him for snubbing the Ministry’s invitation,” the PUL’s official disclosed to me at the Union’s Headquarter (44, Clay Street, Monrovia) on Friday, January 31, 2020.

LIBERIAN JOURNALISTS LEAVE “JOURNALISM” FOR “PUBLIC RELATIONS”

On his “political show” on Saturday, January (see date above), Mr. Sekou Sheriff boasted that he’s a “well-seasoned Journalist”, having spent long time on reporting for the print media (newspaper) and writing for various radio station—before finally (deciding) to sit in the studio of a radio station.

However, Mr. Sheriff has faltered on the “understanding” of the difference between “Journalism” and “Public Relations” (or political propaganda) This is similar to the “intellectual handicap” of “majority” of his colleagues (Liberian print journalists, trained in Liberia)

The (rule) of “Journalism” mandates the practitioner to “balance”—display the “rights and wrongs”—of his/her subjects (rivals) in his/her reportage (or commentary) on both persons; the (rule) of “Public Relations” (or Political Propaganda) demands the “adherent” to “tilt” (bend) the reportage in favor of (his/her) “benefactor”. The adage says: “He” (or she) who pays the piper dictates the (musical) tone”

Like most of his colleagues, especially those regularly behind the microphone in a Radio Station, Journalist Sekou Sheriff survives on “political propaganda”, which he (like his colleagues) mistakes for “Journalism”. And these “journalists”—or “join-the-lists” (as most journalistically inexperienced or financially comprised Press people are called in Liberia) are used as “surrogate spokespersons” by financially privileged politicians wanting a “journalist” to insult their political opponent or to blackmail the person.

Some of Liberia’s media entities (print and electronic) are owned by politicians, majority of the “independent” ones are sponsored by rich political juggernauts, and all the “professional journalists” working in any of these journalistic institutions are so “indoctrinated” with “political reportage” that they ignore other parts of national sectors—agriculture, tourism, etc. None is going for “development stories”—example, a single mother’s small roasted cassava business that’s keeping her four children in the High School. However, “Development Reporting” is not being “financially encouraged” nowadays (in post-war Liberia) by the Government of Liberia, owners of media institutions, and Liberia’s International Partners on “Development” Example: I have not received my “Development Reporter of the Year Award” in the Press Union’s of Liberia’s 2018’s “Media Excellent Awards” on my “development story” about a 17-year-old, 9th grade male student who sponsors his education with sales from his model storey-houses (built with paper and metal sheets and glued he produces from mixture sponge and gas) in his community of Margibi County. My story on the lad, published in the Daily Observer newspaper of Liberia in 2017, earned for him a “Architecture scholarship” at the Booker Washington Institute, in the same County, in 2017)

THE PERSONAL SECURITY RISK OF JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF’S “INSULT” AGAINST THE VICE PRESIDENT

Since his denigratory outburst against Vice President Howard-Taylor, Journalist Sekou Sheriff has been insinuating his “maximum protection” against ‘harm’ by (anybody) who feels “offended” by his insult.

The VP isn’t—or may not be thinking—about “retaliation” through “physical means”—due mostly to her being a “mother” who had experienced “verbal sting” by one of her children.

However, she doesn’t control the mind of one of her “loyalists” who wish to “physically retaliate” on her “insulter” by using a gun or a knife during nighttime.  Remember, she was a wife of a head of a leading armed group (National Patriotic Front of Liberia) in Liberia’s civil war and some members of this Force were under her “spell” (because of “humanitarian gesturess) to revenge (via the gun or the knife) on her “perceived enemies”, even though she didn’t “authorize” them. Many of those “killers” are still alive today and are still “loyal” to the “oldma” (Liberian name for a kind female person) And journalist Sekou Sheriff’s “protective coverage”—from the media entity he works for, or VP Taylor’s “political enemy” he’s “defending” (against the VP) won’t always stretch to where he would be. Some of the Ex-NPFL “killers” would be there (disguised) with the “oldma’s insulter”

Presidential Candidate (Senator) George Manneh Weah and
his running mate (Senator) Vice Presidential Candidate Jewel Howard-Taylor

The “murder” of journalists in other Countries (reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation or another International broadcasting entity) could be attributed to “verbal action” against “top government officials”—similar to Liberia’s Sekou Sheriff “against” Liberia’s Vice President.

WHEN THE “RELATIONSHIP” WAS “CORDIAL”

They were once “friends—political bedfellows—during (and shortly after)—the merger of his party (Congress of Democratic Change, CDC) and her party (National Patriotic Party, NPP) in 2017.  During the “good old day”, a Liberian newspaper relayed her “craving” to be by his ‘political side’. The paper quoted verbatim: “So they are our natural partner. In fact, CDC was created out of NPP and so the alliance with the CDC is a natural. So, I will be adding my voice to the National Executive Committee (of NPP) that we form this alliance”—Sen. Jewel Howard-Taylor. Source: FrontPage Africa newspaper of Liberia (Edition: November 1, 2016) The quote is part of the paper’s story under the headline “Liberian Political Parties Scramble For Merger With George Weah”

“FINE GEORGE WEAH” IN AN “UGLY POLITICAL CIRCLE”

My figurative reference to the former “World’s Best Footballer” (1995) as a “fine person” is based on his immense financial contributions (from his footballing money) to ending his country’s civil war and toward the reconstruction of his post-war Country throughout his huge money-making career in Europe to the time he entered Liberia’s politically murky water called “politics” around 1997.

The “ugly political circle” comprises “political sycophants” who use their media platforms to spew invectives at anybody who politically disagrees with the President or whose (implemented) “expert advice” to the President has caused nose-dive of Liberia’s economy, which is reflected in the following:  Impoverishment of majority of the citizens living in abject poverty. Regularly occurring armed robberies in neighborhoods, some aided by national armed law enforcement officers. Rife official corruption is rife—as the whereabouts of sixteen billions of Liberian currency, allegedly printed by the former Government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, still remains unknown almost a year now since it allegedly disappeared

through a container from Liberia’s premier sea port—Free Port of Monrovia. Diplomatic community’s and World Bank’s “loss of confidence” in the George Weah’s Government on the Administration “misuse” of money provided by each International Support Body for Liberia’s “Development”. (Reacting to citizens’ complaints to the Weah’s Government on the World Bank’s money, Mr. Weah’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe defended: “We dig hole to cover hole”) Majority of the citizens—including genuine professionals—can’t find job as government’s officials live ostentatious life: buying houses and sampling latest cars (Most of these cars are usually parked near liquor sale spots during after-work hour)

The Head of State appears “incapacitated” to return the Country’s economy to the level his immediate predecessor (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf)—a seasoned Economist— left it.

The “suffering” from the “economic recession” has resulted into “assassination threat” by some persons on the President’s life. (One threat was posted on Facebook by a frustrated citizen—and was published by the FrontPage Africa newspaper of Liberia.) Other persons “being wiped” by the economic meltdown are “insulting” the Head of State—as their way of expressing their pain—almost similar to what Journalist Sekou Sheriff had done to Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor. On some of the invectives against him, President Weah had used some of the “Worship time” at the Dominion Christian Fellowship International (owned by President Weah’s “spiritual mentor” Bishop Isaac Winker) to “complain”. He “cried” on the “insulter”

Some “spiritually inclined persons” are saying President George Manneh Weah’s “inability” in restoring Liberia’s economy is rooted in “spiritual manipulations” by some members of his “political circle”.

Can’t President Weah “loosen” himself with his “Christian power” he gets  from the “Christian Center” (Forkay Klon Family Christian Ministry)—a “Family Church” he built  near his private residential place?

RECOMMENDATIONS

Journalist Sekou Sheriff, as well as all Liberian members of the “Fourth Estate” (Media), should do “balanced political reporting”, which won’t make the other politician or political party feel “witch-hunted” (and hunts for the life of the “witch-hunter”); and should focus much on “development stories” (two examples mentioned earlier in this article), which would quickly pull “huge financial support” from big International “Development Bodies” like the the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Project (UNDP), the African Development Bank (AfDB), etc. toward the “journalist” and his/her media institution.

With this “big money”, the (Liberian) Journalist will reject “paltry sum” of money being dangled by anybody  (especially top Government officials) in the face of the  Journalist to grab and go to  “insult” or “blackmail” the benefactor’s “ideological enemy”.

CONCLUSION

Not every Liberian Journalist will be “mute” on comrade Sekou Sheriff’s “unnecessary invective” against the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia—on what I would call “media fraternity”.  Not all members of Liberia’s media community are “bias” (on media fraternity) or “supporter” (on financial rewardr from the “insulter” or his “political benefactor’’)

Is Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s “unnecessary verbal punch” against the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia—Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor—a reflection of his “upbringing”—by a biological relative or what he learnt from a “street life”?

The writer of this article is a High School student.

About the Author:

Samuel G. Dweh is a member of the Wedabo ethnic group of Grand Kru County, situated in the South-Eastern part of Liberia. He’s a print journalist, fiction writer, and author of many books. He’s a member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), and President of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) He can be reached via: —+231 (0)886618906/776583266/samuelosophy@yahoo.com

 

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About Cholo Brooks 13542 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.