Last Punch? Firestone Liberia Reportedly Asked to Ax Controversial Journalist in PR Role
Monrovia – Patrick Honnah made a name for himself as host of the highly-rated Bumper Show on state radio, Liberia Broadcasting System. Prior to that, he was a familiar voice on the Truth FM offering a fresh voice to topical issues.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
When the George Weah-led government took office last January, Honnah, who was critical of Mr. Weah’s presidential quest and openly supported former Vice President Joseph Boakai was not retained in his role as a senior executive at LBS.
Mr. Honnah then launched an initiative to venture into the private sector with the launch of his Punch FM & TV station, following the law to the latter and fulfilling all the necessary requirements from the government to get his station off the ground.
Mr. Honnah’s nightmare came in June 2018 when the government through the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism announced the suspension of all media licenses issued between January 1, 2018, and June 18, 2018, dealing Honnah a major blow in his quest to return to the airwaves.
The government’s move affected the opening of Punch FM, few days after he had announced the opening of the radio station. The government’s statement said: “Government is reviewing the regulatory regime due to technical anomalies in the sector.” The review process started Wednesday, June 20, 2018, over a year now, but Punch FM’s operation is yet to be authorized.
Mr. Honnah has repeatedly accused the government of attempting to deprive him and his family of their livelihood after he had completed all legal and financial requirements needed to operate his radio station.
After months of turmoil and bottlenecks that led to nowhere, Mr. Honnah put his dreams on hold and took up a position as Public Relations Manager with Firestone Liberia, a position he has been working outside the realms of government and with what is supposed to be a private company operating in Liberia.
Now FrontPageAfrica has learned that the government appears to be unhappy with Mr. Honnah’s vocal social media presence and open support for the opposition candidates in the just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial elections.
“The minster called a meeting with executives of Firestone and we voiced our concern as to why a Public Relations Manager in the employ of Firestone continues to attack the government. We needed to know that. It is not about individual but about the country. No one wants him(Patrick Honnah) out. But the company(Firestone) should warn him based on his utterances.”
This, according to multiple sources has prompted the Firestone management to ponder parting ways with Mr. Honnah.
The administration, according to one source has officially requested the Management of Firestone Liberia, a subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, to terminate the services of the company’s Communications Manager Patrick Honnah, terming him as anti-administration.
Multiple sources within the corridors of the President’s Foreign Ministry office informed FPA that representatives from the Office of President Weah held an hour-long meeting last Tuesday morning with the Firestone Management with a one-item agenda, which was to formally request the company to terminate the services of Honnah for his critical stance on social media and his Punch FM’s website against the President while in the employ of the company.
The source named in attendance representing the Office of the President, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, Legal Advisor Archibald Bernard, Advisor Charles Bright, Executive Mansion Chief of Protocol Nora Finda Bundo, and Minister of State without Portfolio Trokon Kpui.
Deputy Press Secretary Smith Toby dismissed the report when FrontPageAfrica contacted him at the weekend but a source privy to the discussions held with two executives of Firestone told FPA on condition of anonymity because they have not been authorized to speak on the meeting, said: “The minster called a meeting with executives of Firestone and we voiced our concern as to why a Public Relations Manager in the employ of Firestone continues to attack the government. We needed to know that. It is not about individual but about the country. No one wants him(Patrick Honnah) out. But the company(Firestone) should warn him based on his utterances.”
One of the government officials in the meeting reportedly accused Mr. Honnah of participating in the June 7 Save the State protest, and using his private Facebook page to criticize the President while in the company’s employ. “I heard them discussing in a small group on the fifth floor after the meeting. They sounded like they had succeeded in convincing the company to terminate Patrick’s services. One of them said, these people know they’ll always have to work with us, so it is in their interest to do so,” said the source.
During the 2017 Presidential elections, the broadcast journalist publicly criticized then candidate Weah referring to him as very unsophisticated and unprepared to lead Liberia when he hosted the popular Bumper Show on State Radio. He claims he is being targeted by the Weah government for his open criticism of the President.
In one of Honnah’s radio shows during the 2017 elections, he said ” We have to stand up strong so that the country does not fall into the wrong hands “.
Article 18 of the Liberian Constitution states ” All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin, or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work”.
Mr. Honnah has not returned phone calls and text messages seeking comment but a government source when queried as to why the government may be attempting to deny Mr. Honnah a means of providing for his family, said: “It is not the government’s intention to deny any Liberia access to work but people need to understand that they cannot continue to use social media to taint the government’s image.”
The action against Mr. Honnah follows a recurring trend in recent months that has seen similar voices working in the private sector come under scrutiny.
Mr. Jonathan Paylayleh, the BBC’s correspondent in Liberia endured similar scrutiny when the government raised issues about his reporting to his bosses at the BBC.