MONROVIA, LIBERIA – The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has expressed deep concern regarding the recent harassment experienced by Journalist Sekou V. Sheriff at the hands of Immigration Officers at the Roberts International Airport.
Sekou V. Sheriff serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Voice of Liberia, a Commercial Broadcaster operating in Liberia.
On a business trip to Ghana, Sheriff was prevented from boarding his flight by immigration officers citing an order barring him from leaving Liberia due to a legal dispute with Commerce Minister, Mawine Diggs.
Despite seeking help from politicians and media contacts regarding his detention, Immigration Commissioner Col. Robert Buddy clarified that there was no travel restriction (Ne Exeat Republica) against Journalist Sekou V. Sheriff allowing him to travel to Accra, Ghana.
The dispute between Sheriff and Minister Diggs began after Sheriff’s broadcast on his widely listened-to early morning show, alleging that Diggs had sold a Liberian Embassy in Belgium and was involved in moving large sums of money from Liberia to the United States, information reportedly sourced from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shared with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
This broadcast led Minister Diggs to file various charges including Criminal Cohesion, Blackmailing, Harassment, and Disorderly Conduct against Journalist Sekou V. Sheriff. Sheriff’s legal representatives responded appropriately, and the Judge ordered Sheriff to report to court on every Fridays of the week until the matter was resolved amicably. Sheriff complied by visiting court on January 5, 2024, and in adherence to the Magistrate’s order.
However, Sheriff was absent at a subsequent court hearing on Tuesday, leading the Magistrate to issue a second Writ of Arrest, despite his legal representation being present.
Journalist Sekou V. Sheriff has returned to the country and appeared before the Monrovia City Court, where he paid a fine for contempt of court due to his absence from the recent hearing. The Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court has also authorized a bound for the second Writ of Arrest issued against Journalist Sheriff.
The Press Union of Liberia emphasizes the need for courts to fairly evaluate cases without aiming to imprison a journalist who holds significant investments in a radio station (Voice of Liberia) and other businesses in Liberia. While discouraging attacks on individuals, the Union urges officials like Commerce Minister Mawine Diggs to handle news about them with tolerance, rather than resorting to seeking imprisonment for those who accused them.