The Board of Shareholders of the New Era Corporation, publishers of The Inquirer newspaper, announces with profound sadness the passing of Mr. Philip N. Wesseh, longtime Managing Editor of The Inquirer newspaper. This sad event occurred on Tuesday, September 14, 2022 at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, following a period of illness. He was 64 years old.
Mr. Wesseh’s journalism career, which spanned nearly 40 years, began in the early 1980s at the Daily Observer newspaper. This was the period of military rule in Liberia during which the independent press, rights activists, and opposition politicians were regularly abused by the regime to suppress free speech and to ruthlessly maintain control.
Wesseh started his career as a Daily Observer correspondent in the Borough of New Kru town, one of the poor densely populated communities in the Liberian capital Monrovia. He graduated in 1981 from the D. Twe Memorial High School in New Kru town, where he ably served as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the school’s press club. Upon graduation, he was unemployed and unable to pursue further education due to lack of opportunity until he was recommended to Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Managing Director of the Liberian Observer Corporation, publishers of the Daily Observer. He was recommended by Mr. Gabriel I.H. Williams, a 1982 graduate of D. Twe, who was assistant editor-in-chief of the press club under Wesseh. Mr. Williams started his career at the Observer as a trainee reporter in preparation to enroll at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), even though the process did not materialize because of instability in Ghana.
Mr. Wesseh soon became one of the best reporters at the Observer, which was one of the leading independent newspapers in West Africa. As a result of his hard work and leadership qualities, Mr. Wesseh quickly rose through the ranks to become News Editor of the Observer. He held this position with distinction until the outbreak of the Liberian civil war in December 1989, which led to the closure and destruction of the offices of the Daily Observer.
In January 1991, several former editorial staff members of the Observer launched The Inquirer, an independent newspaper which became the leading newspaper and a credible source of information in Liberia. The founding Managing Editor of The Inquirer was Mr Gabriel Williams, who Mr Wesseh succeeded as Managing Editor in 1994 after Williams fled Liberia due to death threats from the armed factions involved in Liberia’s civil war.
It was during his long service as Managing Editor of The Inquirer, that he became popularly known by the nickname ‘Ginna,’ for the way in which he ran his newsroom — a parody of the (zoe bush) the traditional society in Liberian culture. For him, the newsroom was sacrosanct, especially during the war years when ranking state security agents at the time would often brazenly intrude, inspect, and alter newspaper headlines at the printing press, without the knowledge or consent of a newspaper’s own editors.
During the civil war, the building housing the offices of The Inquirer was attacked and completely burnt down to the ground because of the paper’s strong advocacy against human rights abuses perpetrated by the contending armed factions.
Over the last decade, Mr. Wesseh received a national honor from then President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He also graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia, and was admitted into the Liberia National Bar Association as an Attorney-at-Law. He primarily applied his lawyering through legal analyses and opinion, often adding value to the discourse on national issues in The Inquirer, while serving as a lecturer in mass communication at a couple of universities, including the University of Liberia.
In the passing of this media icon, The Inquirer newspaper has lost its longest-serving Managing Editor; the Liberian media has lost a mentor to many young journalists; and the nation has lost a journalist whose contributions to the national discourse helped enhance the vibrancy of Liberia’s nascent democracy. The family has lost a father and a figure.
Meanwhile, the Board of Shareholders would like to use this opportunity to thank President George M. Weah for the financial support rendered Mr. Wesseh to enable him to seek medical treatment in Ghana last year. While applauding President Weah for this generous act, we wish to remind Mr. President of the need for his government to focus on improving the quality of health care in Liberia, which is currently in a dysfunctional state.
On behalf of the interim Management and Staff of The Inquirer, we extend profound condolences to the bereaved family, including his wife Teeplah Wesseh and the children.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in perfect peace.
Signed: J. Grody Dorbor, Acting Secretary of the Board of Shareholders
Approved: Gabriel I.H. Williams, Chair, Board of Shareholders