By Joe Bartuah
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: For the third time this year, the cruel hands of death have again dealt another stinging blow to Liberian journalism, with the passing of Mr. James S. Seitua, former Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Observer newspaper in Monrovia. Mr. Seitua, 67, died on October 13, 2022 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts following a period of an on-and-off ailment.
On February 17th, Mr. Joe Teh, former Chief Editor of the erstwhile Star Radio in Monrovia lost his epic battle with diabetes while Mr. Philip N. Wesseh, Managing Editor of the Inquirer newspaper succumbed to complications from the same disease on September 14, 2022. Coincidentally, Messrs Wesseh and Seitua had had their initial training at the Daily Observer, with Mr. Wesseh serving as News Editor and Mr. Seitua as Deputy News Editor at some point in time prior to the eruption of the senseless upheaval in Liberia.
A 36-year veteran of the Inky Fraternity, Mr. Seitua joined the Daily Observer in 1986 as a Senior Reporter, under the tutelage of Mr. Kenneth Yarkparo Best as Managing Director and the late Stanton B. Peabody as Editor-in-Chief. Due to his prolific writing skills, Mr. Seitua eventually rose through the ranks, becoming Deputy News Editor in the late 1980s, until the eruption of the civil war.
According to Mr. Gregory H. Stemn, a former Senior Photographer of the paper, he and Mr. Seitua were sent to Sierra Leone in early 1990 to cover the second peace conference convened at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown through the instrumentality of the erstwhile Inter-Faith Mediation Committee, led by then United Methodist Bishop Arthur F. Kulah, the late Catholic Archbishop Michael K. Francis and Chief Kafumba Konneh of the Islamic Council of Liberia at the time.
Mr. Stemn recalled that because the NPFL had boycotted the second peace conference, he and the late Seitua decided to return to Liberia via the Freetown-Monrovia Highway, after spending several days in Sierra Leone, but they were both arrested by some Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers deployed at the border upon arriving at Bo-Waterside. “The AFL soldiers claimed we were rebel sympathizers, because they were seeing many people cross the border into Sierra Leone and they became nervous”, Mr. Stemn remembered.
He said even though he (Stemn) managed to escape, Mr. Seitua remained in the custody of the AFL soldiers. He said when they reunited in Monrovia years later, Mr. Seitua narrated to him all the sufferings he had incurred simply because he had gone to Sierra Leone to perform his reportorial duties. He said Mr. Seitua later told him that it was the Sierra Leonean soldiers at the border who were instrumental in securing his release, because they had passionately pleaded with their Liberian counterparts not to harm him, realizing that he was a journalist working for a reputable Liberian newspaper.
Mr. Stemn further noted that in 1995 when Mr. Best decided to revitalize the Daily Observer, it was Mr. Seitua who was charged with the responsibility of picking up the mantle. “James played a crucial role in putting the Observer back on the newsstands”, Mr. Stemn noted. Mr. Seitua headed the Daily Observer until 1997 when he traveled to the U.S. on a fellowship facilitated by the public affairs division of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia at the time.
Born on December 5, 1954 in Bendaja, Porkpa District, Cape Mount County, Mr. Seitua was a product of the Lott Carey Mission High School in Brewerville on the outskirts of Monrovia after which attended the University of Liberia for two years. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Olivia Seitua, three adult children—Marcia Seitua, James S. Seitua, Jr. Jimmlyn Seitua–and one grandchild.
Meanwhile, the former president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), as well as the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), Mr. Isaac D.E. Bantu has described Mr. Seitua’s death as an irreparable loss to the Liberian journalism community and the Seitua family.
Mr. Bantu who described the late Seitua as “a fearless journalist”, noted that the brother’s passing is an enormous personal loss to him, considering the close relationship involving him and the late fallen colleague. He disclosed that Mr. Seitua was a founding member of ALJA, which was organized in 1998.