Liberian Media: Nation’s Current Most Powerful, Presidency-Favored Journalist: Continuing With Insulting “Prominent Citizens” Another case of a ‘politically bent’ (independent) media; Religious Bias

By Samuel G. Dweh—Print Journalist, Fiction writer, Author—+231 (0)886618906/776583266/samuelosophy@yahoo.com/samuelosophy1@gmail.com |

“Journalist” Sekou Sheriff on his “beat”

This article ends with recommendations—solution methods

Author’s clarification (setting the record straight): I am not a propagandist (for) any of this Journalist’s victims mentioned in this write-up, neither I’m I a Public Relations person (against) his (political) benefactor pushing him to use his radio platform to spew out invectives or denigratory words against the Nation’s prominent citizens, especially political opponents to the Head of State (George Manneh Weah)  I’m only playing my “journalistic” (or patriotic) role: Speaking against one of the “ills” in our Society (Liberia), which have created several

This article ends with recommendations.

I’m a Journalist—like my subject (photo above)

YOUNG & GOOD PRONOUNCER OF ENGLISH WORDS

Journalist Sekou is in the “youth” age category . At the time I was writing this “informative and advisory” piece, June, 2020, he was below  age 34. And he speaks eloquently (clarity of pronunciation of “majority” of English words) 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 talking on the Radio. I admire him for the latter:  Good pronunciation.

AN ‘IRRITATING PERSONA’ ON THE RADIO

But the ‘young’ Journalist and ‘good English words pronouncer’ is more of an irritating persona—to many morally upright persons listening—when he’s on Air.

He has a beat (assignment area) named “Freedom’s Morning Rise”, which runs between 7:00am and 10:00am. His beat is on Freedom FM (87.9), being run by Freedom Communications, owned by a the Deputy Director of Government-owned National Security Agency (NSA), Mr. Sam Siryon—the Institution’s Chief Executive Officer.

My media colleague, Sekou Sheriff, seems addicted to insulting any popular public figure—in the political arena or Religious Community (except Islam) who ideologically or politically disagrees with or criticizes Head of State George Manneh Weah on governance. And it seems he’s being nudged (prodded) by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

FIRST FAMOUS INSULT BY JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF

Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor Photo source: Google.com

For me, Sekou’s fame of insulting prominent Liberians started with Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor on his “political Talk Show” of 22 and 23 of January of year 2020. He had said the Vice President had given her official car (given by the Government to the Office of the VP) to her “boyfriend”, and he later remarked that “sense should beaten into the Vice President’s head” for (indirectly) accusing the President for orchestrating the depriving the Office of the Vice President the complete number of vehicles and other things her Office is constitutionally entitled to. At various forums, many prominent Liberian women reacted to this insult. “Freedom FM’s Manager was a woman when the entity’s employee, Sekou Sheriff, was insulting another woman, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor. But she kept him on Air, which, to me, is a non-verbal endorsement of the Journalist’s action against this most powerful woman in Liberia today,” Madam Daitowon Pay-Bayee, Director of the Disability Council of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), a political party, complained during a non-political, media-in-general informal discussion  at the ANC’s Headquarter in Monrovia on June 12, 2020.

The role Journalist Sekou Sherif played in the VP-President ‘misunderstanding’ is constitutionally reserved for the Ministry of Information—to “set the record straight” (clarification) for the Office of the President, vice versa. The Journalist has never pointed out one of the President’s many mistakes relating to governance, even thought he’s aware of the myriad of the President’s educational or political problems that often engender criticisms from most of the other citizens.

Prior to Journalist’s “defense” of the President or the Presidency, the VP had disclosed a friction in the relationship of her and Head of State George Manneh. One of the information that filtered from her Office said the President had ignored her request to see him for an important discussion when she was at his Office.

SECOND FAMOUS INSULT BY JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIFF

Mr. Cummings on his political party’s publicity banner at the party’s Headquarter in Sinkor, Monrovia

Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), is the second victim of Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s ‘second famous insult’. The ANC is one of vocal political rivals to the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC)—Sekou Sheriff’s party.

On his exclusive ‘political Talk-Show’ (“Freedom’s Morning Rise”) in the first half of May, the Journalist called Mr. Cummings a “gay” (homosexual) Later, he commanded a male caller to the Show: “Call him Alexander Gay Cummings.” The caller obeyed. He replaced the “Benedict” (middle name) for something else!

Much of the Show was on the ANC’s Political Leader. The Journalist was defending Head of State George Manneh Weah on a Social Media post (few days before the Talk-Show) criticizing the President’s governance styles, which some persons claimed had been posted by some loyalists to the ANC’s Political Leader on his “instruction”

The Journalist repeated his insult against Mr. Cummings—he’s a gay (homosexual)—on another edition of his Show: Tuesday, May 26, 2020. This was part of his discourse about the developmental impact Mr. Cummings’ political party in one of the Counties in South-Eastern Liberia. Like the first Show, he instructed a male caller call the ANC’s Political Leader a “gay”; the person obeyed.

The “Freedom’s Morning Rise” Anchorman never gives equal call time to any caller who begins with pointing at his partiality in his political Talk-Show, or a person who started with highlighting President Weah’s words or action that has engendered another Liberian’s criticism against him. Apart from this, he often uses hard descriptive words—“stupid”, “narrow-minded”, etc.—against leaders of opposition political parties who had hotly criticized the Head of State on ‘bad governance’. For example, the Journalist used “narrow-minded” on the Wednesday, June 17, 2020 edition of his Show that dwelled much on an Executive Decision by telecommunications company Lonestar Cell/MTN, headed by Benoni Urey, political leader of the All Liberian Party (ALP), another hot critic of the Weah-led Government.

The owner/Management of the media institution Sekou Sheriff work for, Freedom Communications, appears behind the Anti-Alexander B. Cummings Movement. The front page’s banner headline of Freedom Communications’ print Arm (newspaper)—named “Freedom News”—of Monday, June 8, 2020, edition reads: “ANC H’quarters, Gangsters Paradise”  The story is about leadership tussle between two sets of the ANC’s Youth Wing at a general Press Conference, which ended in violence—use of weapons (stones and cutlasses)—according to the writer—by (few) dissatisfied members against (some) of the other members from the ‘opposition camp’.

There are, however, many ‘grammatical stains” and ‘spelling handicaps’ on and several journalistically ethical issues with this story. The first visible grammatical stain is the comma (,) in the headline, instead of a colon (:) With the comma, the construction indicates that “two different things” (“ANC H’quarters” and “Gangsters Paradise”) are being spoken about. Another ‘grammatical stain’ is “we’ll culture”, instead of “well cultured”. The “We’ll” is contraction (short form) of “We will” One of the “spelling handicaps” on this story is the word “brand” in the kicker (below the main headline) This word (brand) means PRODUCT, KIND, or SORT. The right spelling is BRANDISH—meaning WAVE, WIELD, or FLAUNT (which the aggrieved ANC’s Youth Wing’s members allegedly did with their weapons).  The story writer—or the editor—wrote “tugs” (reference to persons with exhibited violent behavior), instead of “thugs” (hostile persons). The first (tug) means “pull” or “haul” Who edited—or proofread—this story? Does the Management of Freedom Communications give priority to standards in “right pronunciations” (for its electronic platform—Freedom FM) and ignore “proper grammar or spelling” (for its print—Freedom News)? Or these errors are the result of poor knowledge of the writer or editor in grammar or spelling (elementary, in this case)?

Here are the ‘ethical stains’ on the story. The writer injected his/her ‘personal feelings’ in the story.  See it with the first two paragraphs: “Alexander Cummings and his political party, the Alternative National Congress (no closing comma) (ANC) have always paraded themselves as a civilized and we’ll (well) cultured political party. Alex Cummings is on record for painting a picture of his ANC as a saintly political enterprise”. Two: The writer of the story gave ‘incomplete information’ concerning the “date” (day and month) the violence occurred. He/she stated only a day (Sunday) An intelligent writer (journalist) will state the full time (day, month, year) an problem came up, for the writer’s reader to be “properly informed”.

 

CHRISTIAN LEADERS ON JOURNALIST SEKOU’S LIST OF  “DISPARAGING COMMENTS” AGAINST SENIOR CITIZENS

Like other Radio-Show Anchors Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia, Journalist Sekou Sheriff dedicated much of his “Freedom’s Morning Rise” to the George M. Weah-led Government’s announcement of re-opening of religious worship centers—after over three months of Government-ordered closure aimed at preventing transmission of the Coronavirus pandemic’s presence in Liberia, according to Government’s report in early May.

Sekou Sherif, however, turned his platform—“Freedom’s Morning Rise”—into a mockery tool against Christian Leaders (Heads of Churches) He had said they (Christian Leaders) are pressuring the President and anxious for the re-opening of their Churches, only for them to resume their ‘Church business’ of  collecting Offerings and Tithes) He never talked about the Religion he’s member of.

This comment by the Journalist—a Muslim—enraged many adherents to the Christian Religion, with many of them describing it as ‘sacrilegious’.

“If such comment was used by a Christian Journalist against Islamic Leaders on the re-opening of Mosques, many Muslims would have taken issue with this Christian Journalist and the Radio Station he works for,” complained an Assistant Pastor the Conqueror Christian Central Church in New Matadi, Sinkor, Monrovia, two weeks after Mr. Sherif’s comment.

PRESIDENCY-FAVORED

Liberia’s Head of State George Manneh Weah

A larger number  of those who monitor “Freedom’s Morning Rise” has come to the realization of favoritism by Head of State George Manneh Weah toward the Journalist. This was partially proven by the President’s use of “Freedom’s Morning Rise” as his medium of interaction with the Liberian society on critical national issues, especially the President’s actions on COVID-19, in May. This was Head of State George M. Weah’s first live use of a Talk-Show over an “independent” Radio Station.

This Sekou Sheriff-George Weah relationship is a form of ‘allegiance’, which the media institution (Freedom Communications) often says it (represented by all persons using its Radio frequency) isn’t in with ‘anybody’, according to one of the Institution’s jingles. The jingles says: “The only independent voice of Liberia. No allegiance to any political party, institution, organization, or individual” (The word ‘individual’ underlined by author of this article for emphasis)

 

INSULTED PERSONS “COWED” ON PRESIDENT’S BACKING

Most of Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s  “insults” are “for” the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia—Dr. George Manneh Weah or his Government. The Presidential status has automatically injected fear (cowardice) in each of these “insulted persons” for the Journalist. None of them has personally “complained” in a public space—at a function, in the media, etc. Some of the ‘muted’ victims of insult would tell you, “Responding to this Journalist’s invectives against me is giving credence to his Show”, justifying why they are silent on being insulted.

On fear of Sekou, under the protection of the Head of State, some of the victims of invectives are saying: “I can do nothing to the defender of the President who has all the State’s Security apparatus under his control.”

Such feeling has a justifiable base: Only the snap of the President’s fingers will spark an armed team of national security officers against the person who “touched” the President’s “private defender” on the Radio.

The Court will also be used against any victim of Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s pro-President insult. You can sue him for insulting you, but your case will be thrown out of the Court by the insulter’s benefactor—the President. Who has “employed” the Head of Liberia’s Judiciary under whom all Courts—including the Private ones—falls?

This could be the major reason none of Journalist Sekpu Sherif’s victims has  “sued” him for “insulting”

INTERVENTION BY LIBERIAN JOURNALISTS’ UNION

On Friday, May 29, 2020, I met the president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Charles B. Coffey, Jr., in his office to ask him about the Union’s interventionary measures to checkmate our colleague on his continued ethical misuse of his information-dissemination platform on Freedom FM, especially against perceived political opponents, as should be done to any other PUL’s member deeply involved in bad information, education, or entertainment on his/her media platform.

Mr. Coffey replied: “The Union had expelled Journalist Sekou Sheriff as member of the Press Union of Liberia on his continued use of invectives against other Liberians. We suspended him first, but he continued refusing to abide by the ethics of the profession as enshrined in the PUL’s Code of Conducts for all members to impartially, positively and honorably report or disseminate information on other people or group of persons.”

Under suspension by the PUL leadership, Sekou Sheriff fired back at the Union and its leader on the Friday, January 18 edition of his Show for his spearheading a “condemnatory” Press Statement (relayed by other media entities) against him.  He described the Union as an “irrelevant Institution”, and the President a “beggar” who goes around, begging for money from political opponents on the pretext that he’s doing it for the benefit of the Union.

On the Institution Mr. Sekou Sheriff works for, the PUL Head remarked: “The Union’s leadership has lost confidence in Freedom FM as a media institution for promoter of  national unity and development through its Talk Shows, especially the one being handled by Sekou Sheriff.”

The PUL leadership doesn’t have a power to suspend Journalist Sekou’s ‘political witch-hunting’ and pro-President Weah/Government Show, which the Institution’s owner (Sam Siryon) hasn’t seen as a sane thing to do. Many concerned people are saying the entity’s owner is enjoying the “insult”—as long as it is against the political opponent of his (Sam’s) employer and political benefactor—President George Manneh Weah. The Head of State enjoying the “insult” too, perhaps, read from his “silence” on it—as long as it (insult) is in “defense” against the ‘enemy’ against him or his Government. If he were the “victim” of the invective, he would have given order to the State Security to shut it down immediately (as was done to Voice FM of Henry Costa), or he would have ordered the Liberia Telecommunications Authority with the Ministry of Information to “suspend” the Operating License of the “platform of insult”—Freedom FM—or refused to grant the Operating License (as was done to PUNCH FM of Patrick Honnah)

 

SEKOU’S OUTSTANDING POWER IN THE LIBERIAN MEDIA

At the moment, Sekou Sheriff’s “Freedom’s Mourning Rise” has the largest followership (in Liberia and within Liberian community in the Diaspora) and has an unmatched influence in the Liberian media environment. This “power” comes from his regular use of invectives on his ‘political show’ and ‘President’s favor’ This ‘medal’ was held by Talk-Show host Henry Costa who had always controlled Liberia’s ‘political commentary’ environment (during most of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Presidency), until his Radio Station (VOICE FM) was shut down by the George Weah-led Government in the first quarter of year 2020, due  to continued ‘inciting comments’ against President Weah and his Government—as he most often did during Madam Ellen Sirleaf’s Presidency.

The entity is also the ‘most powerful’ in the Liberian ‘independent’ print media community. This power comes from the Station being mostly run on the National Security Agency’s share of the “National budgetary allocation” from the Government to all Ministries and Agencies. So, Freedom FM doesn’t experience any financial hiccup, shown in temporary shutdown due to fuel shortage in the stand-by electric power generating set, or murmurs by employees over company’s indebtedness to employees—things that are common at each of the other “independent” Radio Stations.

THE PERSONAL SECURITY THREAT OF JOURNALIST SEKOU SHERIF’S CONTINED INSULT AGAINST ‘PROMINENT CITIZENS’

I had hinted on this in my first article (published on the website of local media—Smart News Liberia, GNN Liberia, News Public Trust—in April, 2020) on him, based on his insult of Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor. Each of those he insults has ‘supporters’ or ‘loyalists’ who are economically sustained by their bosses being insulted. They will ‘revenge’ for their benefactors—like Journalist Sekou Sheriff is ‘revenging’ for his benefactor in the Presidency—with use of knives, batons, acid, poison of drinks (probability) The ‘Presidential coverage’ (in form of armed members of the State’s Security) will not always extend with ‘insulter’ Sekou Sheriff on his way to a religious or social function. The ‘revenger’ may be disguised, wait in ‘ambush’, willing to strike to deform (part of the body) or kill instantly.

The “mysterious murder” of some of the journalists in other Countries (reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation or another International broadcasting entity) could be attributed to to their “unwarranted insult”  their political benefactors’ political opponents—similar to what Liberian Journalist Sekou Sheriff is doing “against” political opponents of Liberia’s Head of State George Manneh Weah.

 

SEKOU SHERIFF’S STYLE OF ‘JOURNALISM’ AS PROTOYPE OF REPORTAGE BY MAJORITY OF LIBERIAN JOURNALISTS

Over 85 percent of Liberian journalists, especially those on the Radio, survive on “political propaganda”, which they mistake for “Journalism”. And these “journalists”—or “join-the-lists” (as most journalistically inexperienced or belly-driven 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.  AND OVER 98 PERCENT OF PRE-CIVIL WAR ERA LIBERIAN MEDIA INSTITUTIONS—ELECTRONIC (RADIO/TV) OR PRINT (NEWSPAPER) PRODUCE ONLY TWO KINDS OF STORIES: POLITICS (MOSTLY ON GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS) AND ENTERTAINMENT (MOSTLY MUSIC) BUT MOST OF THE SONGS ARE FOREIGN ARTISTES’ PRODUCTIONS. “EDUCATIONAL/DEVELOPMENT STORIES” (ON RADIO OR IN THE NEWSPAPERS) ARE LESS THAN 1%. FOREIGN STORIES, DOWNLOADED FROM THE INTERNET, ARE PART OF THIS ONE PERCENT. Freedom FM, which was established few months following the ascendancy of George Manneh Weah into Liberia’s Presidency on January  22, 2018,  is following in this track—running of only Political and Entertainment stories—created by pioneer media entities.

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 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 an “Architecture scholarship” at the Booker Washington Institute, in the same County, in 2017)

 

THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENTAL EFFECT OF JOURNALIST SEKOU SERIF’S ACTIONS & THE PRESIDENCY’S DEFENSE

Politically motivated insults in the media, as Sekou Sheriff is doing on his Talk-Show on Freedom FM, slow national developmental march. Example: A  rich person (say, politician) insulted by a journalist on Air won’t support the journalist’s nation-building vision (say, construction of a Building for learning of electricity, masonry, carpentry, tailoring, etc.) And all other persons ‘attached’ to this ‘insulting journalist’ won’t be added to the political philanthropist’s list of would-be beneficiaries. Imagine this journalist as the only qualified person to undertake this kind of project at the moment, and this politician as the only person—from the line of political leaders—who is anxious to pump his money into this nation-building project.  Can you financially support the project of a person who had insulted you for another person?

President George Weah’s “silence” on Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s continued use of invectives against his political opponents—on a Radio Station owned by a top Government official—would discourage the victim-politician on contributing to the Government’s earmarked “national projects”. International Development Organizations, in solidarity with these insulted politicians, may ignore the Weah-led Administration’s plead for assistance as a show of solidarity to the political Leaders thinking about helping Liberia. No ruling political class—christened “Government”—can single-handedly implement all drawn-out national projects. It doesn’t have all the academic/intellectual “brains” or the money needed. Most—or some—of the needed talents or skills and the money are in the opposition political party’s camp.

The opposite view to the above is held by majority of Liberian politicians, especially those making up the ruling class, and this is the major cause of Liberia’s extreme under-developed status—lagging behind each of the other African Countries. If you think this is untrue, mention the name of another Country that is Liberia’s “junior” in terms of development?

Oldest Independent African infrastructure Nation (now age 173 in year 2020—politically born on 26th day of July, year 1847), Most Under-Developed African Nation (in education, agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure…etc)!

RECOMMENDATIONS

Journalist Sekou Sheriff should place the value of his life over the value of the huge amount of money he’s being offered to insult Senior Citizens of Liberia.

He should focus much to and read extensively about another subject—Education, Agriculture, Tourism, Science & Technology, etc.—that develops a Nation faster than “politics” does, and he should use his “linguistic talent” (proficiency of pronunciation) to articulate on any of this “nation-building” subject on his Show. Discussion on this sector, I strongly believe, will quickly pull “huge financial support” from big International “Development Bodies” like 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.

And, when Sekou Sheriff is on any political discourse on two political opponents or ideological rivals, he should dwell on “balance” (merits and demerits of comments or actions of ideological opponents being discussed) which won’t make one of the being-discussed persons to feel “witch-hunted” (and hunts for the life of the “witch-hunter”)

The owner of Freedom FM should suspend “Freedom’s Morning Rise” Anchorman Sekous Sheriff when he continues using invectives against other people on his Show on the Station’s Airwaves.

President George Manneh Weah should distance himself—through writing or words—from Journalist Sekou Sheriff’s politically biased information dissemination on his Show in which the President is mentioned. The President’s stance (written or spoken non-association) would wither other people’s feeling of his “backing of the insult”

The Spiritual Head of the Religious Denomination Journalist Sekou Sheriff worships with should exorcize the ‘spirit of biased and negative information dissemination” in this member of the Religious group.

The pair or persons through whom Sekou Sheriff came into the World, or the only available one, should pray to Allah (Name of Sekou Sheriff’s Religion) to restore this young man to the “good child” (in terms of respect to older persons on errors) he was before sitting behind a microphone in a Radio Station.

CONCLUSION

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

The writer of this article is a High School student.

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 member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), and President of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW)

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About Cholo Brooks 13171 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.