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The INDEPENDENT Newspaper 21st Anniversary Statement

by News Manager

Greetings to our Value customers and subscribers

Today, June 3, 2022, marks the 21st Anniversary of The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT Newspaper, that is involved in Investigative and Fair Journalism and concomitantly guarding national leaders and other stakeholders to ensure sustainable peace and socio-economic growth and development in Liberia.

As well-meaning Liberians and chain of global development partners may be fully aware as regard the dark days in Liberia in yesteryears, The INDEPENDENT is rightly counted among Liberia’s courageous, unwavering, indefatigable and professional media institutions that gallantly stood the tests of time, with sweat, blood and tears, even during the erstwhile dreadful administration of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor.

During the past dictatorial and tyrannical Taylor eras, editors and reporters of THE IINDEPENDENT were victims of unwarranted and unlawful detention, persistent threats, intimidation, and harassment by merciless and pro-regime security officers and their foot soldiers.

Amid such unfavorable atmosphere that effectively awash the Liberian state, then, THE INDEPENDENT firmly stood in exposing blatant and unbridle human rights violations, financial and other abuses in both public and private spheres without any fear and favor.

For instance, during the Charles Taylor’s era, we unearthed several financial scandals including kick-backs in the purchase of government vehicles, organized scheme bordering on disappearance of a whopping US$200,000 from the then Ministry of Finance, now Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the illegal sale of several materials by public officials including those, then, at the echelon of state-power and their lackeys.

When Taylor’s regime exited, his former Vice President, Moses Z. Blade, (late) briefly ascended to the nation’s presidency. The Blah administration too was reportedly marred with scandals including its involvement of dollars diplomacy, especially with countries that were returning after Taylor departure.
Later, a transitional administration was constituted by Liberian Stakeholders including Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, (CSOs) and ex-warring factions, among others, who subsequently chose business mogul, Charles Gyude Bryant (late), of the Liberia Action Party (LAP).

But, few months into the transitional leadership of the country, the Bryant led transitional administration was accused of involvement in unbridled corruption including the siphoning of state funds and other resources.

Kick-backs in the purchase of government cars resurfaced in the corridors of power as The INDEPENDENT did not hesitate to expose all those who were suspected to be involved in such acts of graft.

Reports of corruption in the Bryant-led transitional administration compared the media in Liberia to call for ECOWAS intervention, then.

In other words, the corruption jamboree infested in the entire transitional administration severely affected every sector, ranging from importation of rice to mobile phone companies licensing.
While we were exposing these malpractices by some self-seeking elements in the transitional government, we equally contributed immensely in guiding the 2005 Presidential and Legislative Elections, which subsequently led to a peaceful transition of state power to Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as the First democratically elected female President of Liberia and on the African Continent.
Prior to her historic ascendency to the Liberian presidency, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf’s 2005 campaign promises were not taken seriously until she decide to formally include some of the promises in her inaugural speech as she declared corruption as “public enemy number one.”

Said declaration was made before a record crowd of foreign dignitaries including former US First Lady, Laurel Bush, and former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Regrettably, five months into Madam Johnson-Sirleaf’s incumbency, about 3,060 metric tons of Chinese donated rice were secretly given to a local rice dealer, through the defunct Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), on a commission basis.

Again, we took on the matter for professional investigation as to why the government failed to inform its citizens about the donation and how it intended, then, to use it.

The Liberian government, through the Ministry of Commerce, later admitted that the rice was given to the local dealer and insisted that the proceeds of the sale were placed in an escrow account at the Central Bank of Liberia, styled: “Rice Stabilization Funds.”

The INDEPENDENT, having observed the demonstrated insincerity of certain public officials when it comes to providing journalists clarity on state related matters for the common good of the nation, decided to delve into the infamous ‘Nigerian oil’ deal between the governments of Liberia and Nigeria.
The reported secrecy surrounded the Nigerian oil deal created apprehension and widespread public interest, then.

While the oil deal saga was ongoing, The INDEPENDENT intercepted another corruption scheme, with classified volume of dossiers, highlighting malpractices at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.
The scheme related to the sale and awarding of mining rights and licenses, effectively characterized by double crossing of investors since 1985 by some senior officials of the Ministry for pecuniary gains.
Classified police records indicated that some of those implicated in the scandal paid some notorious criminals to kill THE INDEPENDENT’s Publisher, Sam O. Dean, aimed at throwing the case into the dustbin of history.

Moreover, threats and intimidation re-emerged when the paper broke the ‘hottest sex scandal’ in Liberia’s recent history, involving a key establishment official, then.

It is also a known fact that in Liberia, thorough and fearless investigative reporting generally irritates ruling elites and their apologists from one Liberian regime to another since the independence of the nation.

At one point, an order from the top was passed to the then Director of the Liberia National Police (LNP), to shot down the paper without due process of law and subsequently declared Publisher Dean a WANTED man.

Nevertheless, our media institution, being a law abiding entity, formally communicated to various authoritative international media umbrella groups including WAN, Center for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and other international free expression organizations, seeking their solidarity as it related to the arbitrary and unwarranted closure of THE INDEPENDENT and the harassment and intimidation of its staff, and calling for its reopening.

However, the Board of Editors decided to file a writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court of Liberia against the Liberian Government, then, headed by Nobel Laureate, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, protesting its arbitrary closure and calling for the paper reopening.

But interestingly, following six months of legal tussle between the Government and us (THE INDEPENDENT), the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Information, then, headed by Dr. Laurence K. Bropleh, decided to lift the ban on the paper two days to final ruling of the Supreme Court, thus giving a clear lead over the government.

These are just few of the struggles and challenges that we, as a media entity, apart from the harsh economic environment wherein provision of state advertisements are ‘politicized’ and if awarded, state functionaries that control the bulk of the adverts would take about a year or two, to settle their respective bills.

While media houses are practically striving on shoe-strings budgets, across the country, heads of public entities have selected to be indebted to media in the face of lack of electricity, skyrocketing production/printing costs, staff allowances, and other over-head expenditure, thus placing the Liberian media in the poverty zone.

And so, as we celebrate our twenty-one (21) Anniversary today, the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of THE INDEPENDENT, are exceedingly delighted to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to our many and esteemed customers and subscribers whose unqualified support and encouragement keep us going forward.

We also want to encourage our vendors and readers who have equally contributed one way or another to this success story of the paper. All must rest assured that The INDEPENDENT will not compromise public interest and trust and will increase its vigor in the professional investigation of acts of fraud, waste, and acts of abuse at all strata of the Liberian nation.

We also remain focused and committed to doing our professional duties as we have no friend or foe, especially as the Liberian nation gradually moves toward the conduct of the crucial 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

The International Community, political parties, their leaders and supporters as well as other stakeholders can rest assured that we will continue to give equal access to all and sundry in the best interest of the country for the enhancement and consolidation of Liberia’s hard-won peace and democracy.

As a PUBLISHER, I extend my sincere and profound gratitude to some of the founding fathers of The INDEPENDENT and best journalistic minds that Liberia has to offer including Cllr. D. Aldophus Karnua, Philip Moore, Jr. Crispin Tulay, D. Robert Wilmot Dekontee Moncio Kpadeh, J-Karba Williams and Michael Reloaded Roberts. Other are veteran journalist, Alfred Sebah (late) Lamin Kamara (late) and Samuel Kpakpayezee Dwokor (late). Many thanks and appreciation to the current editorial team, headed by J. Alfred Juteh Chea and Wilbert Todd.

Happy 21st Anniversary and God Bless all of us.

Sam O. Dean

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