Greetings to our Valued Customers and Subscribers
SATURDAY, June 3, 2023 marks the 22nd anniversary of The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT Newspaper which is involved with critical and investigative journalism while at the same time prevailing on national leaders to ensure peace, democracy, and economic empowerment in the governance of Liberia.
As Liberians and friends of Liberia are aware of those dark days in the country’s history, The INDEPENDENT is among few of the media houses that stood the test of time, during the dreadful administration of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor despite the detention of its editors and persistent threats made against them by overzealous state security personnel and other undercover security operatives.
The INDEPENDENT stood firm in the exposure of blatant human rights abuses and acts of fiscal indiscipline in the public domain even in the face of the dreaded elite force of the now disbanded Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), headed, then, by the then President’s son, ‘Chuckie Taylor’.
During the Taylor era, we unearthed several financial scandals including the kick-backs in the purchase of government vehicles, the organized scheme of the purported disappearance of US$200,000 at the Finance Ministry, now Ministry of Finance and Development Planning; the sale of several donations from friendly countries by public officials including the then first family among others.
When Taylor regime exited, the transitional administration led by former Liberian businessman, the late Charles Gyude Bryant began to follow suit, apparently taking into consideration the civil war that effectively ravaged the country, then, and other pecuniary gains.
Kick-backs in the purchase of government cars resurfaced in the corridors of power but The INDEPENDENT did not relent in exposing Chairman Bryant and some of his cronies in such dubious deal then, with local car dealers.
The corruption in the Bryant-led transitional administration was so pervasive that the Liberian media was compelled to call for the intervention of the sub-regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The corruption jamboree characterized the entire transitional team in every sector ranging from the importation of rice to the licensing of mobile phone companies.
While we were exposing such unbridled corruption and other malpractices in the transitional government, we equally played pivotal role in the promotion of the first post-war Presidential and Legislative elections in 2005, leading to a peaceful transfer of state power to Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as President of Liberia.
Frankly, the pre-campaign promises of Madam Johnson-Sirleaf were viewed by many with skepticisms until she decided to include some of those promises into her Inaugural Address when Africa’s first female President declared ‘Corruption as Public Enemy Number One.’
President Sirleaf made such declaration before a record crowd of local and foreign dignitaries including United States former First Lady, Laura Bush; and Ex-Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
Regrettably, five months into President Johnson-Sirleaf’s erstwhile administration, about 3,060 metric tons of Chinese donated rice were said to have been secretly given to a dormant Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), for sale on a commission basis.
Again, we took on the matter with the government through professional investigation to know why the regime, then, failed to inform its citizens about the donation and how it intended to use the proceeds from the purported sale of the donated rice.
The government, through the Ministry of Commerce, later admitted to giving the rice to LPMC but added that the proceeds were placed in an escrow account at the Central Bank of Liberia.
The Investigative INDEPENDENT, having observed the somewhat insincerity exhibited by certain public officials when it comes to providing cogent and much-needed INFO on state-related matters to the media for the public good, decided to also delve into the controversial ‘Nigerian Oil’ deal between the governments of Liberia and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then.
The reported secrecy which surrounded the Nigerian oil deal, then, created widespread public apprehension and suspicion.
While the oil deal debate was ongoing in the public domain, The INDEPENDENT intercepted dossiers that highlighted acts of malpractices at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy on the sale and awarding of mining rights and licenses; double-crossing some key investors since 1985 by some senior officials of the Ministry.
Classified security records indicated then, that some of those who were suspected to be involved in the scandal paid some notorious criminals (zogos) to assassinate the Publisher of the Investigative INDEPENDENT, SAM O. DEAN, in the hope of ‘killing the story.’
Threats and intimidation re-emerged when the paper broke the hottest sex scandal story in the country’s recent history, reportedly involving top ruling elite, then.
It is a known fact in Liberia that the uncompromising investigative reporting of the paper irritated many in the corridors of state power, then, as they reportedly ordered the then Director of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Munah Sieh-Browne, to shut down the paper without any due process of law and declared the paper’s Publisher, Sam O. Dean, WANTED.
However, our institution, being a law-abiding entity, communicated to the global newspaper body, World Association of Newspapers Publishers (WAN), the Center for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), Global Investigative Journalism Network and other international free expression organizations, seeking their solidarity in the wake of the closure of The INDEPENDENT in the absence of a court action.
However, the Board of Editors, then, decided to file a writ of prohibition to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia against the Liberian government through the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), for the arbitrary and unlawful closure of the paper, then.
Interestingly, however, following six months of intense legal battle between lawyers of the erstwhile Sirleaf government and the INDEPENDENT, MICAT decided to lift the ban on the paper two days to the final ruling on the case by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
These issues are just few of the struggles and challenges that we, as a media entity, faced over the years, apart from the harsh economic environment in which we have been operating wherein advertisements are politicized, and if awarded, state functionaries that control the bulk of the adverts would take years to settle their respective bills.
While media houses in Liberia are practically striving on shoe-strings budgets, heads of public entities have selected to be indebted to the media even in the face of the lack of electricity, production/printing cost, staff allowances, news gathering and other overhead expenditures, thus, placing the media in Liberia at a disadvantage.
And so, as we celebrate our twenty second anniversary Saturday, we would like to take this time to extend our thanks and appreciation to all our many valued customers, subscribers and partners during our long struggle to reach this far. We also want to encourage our vendors and readers who have equally contributed one way or another to this success story of the paper.
As Liberia prepares for its fourth post-conflict Presidential and Legislative elections in October 2023, as usual, we will give fair access to all political parties and independent candidates, civil society and prodemocracy groups among others during this electioneering era and beyond.
All must rest assured that The INDEPENDENT will never compromise public interest and trust but will endeavor to increase its vigor in investigating fraud, waste and abuse, rights violations, among other vices, as it vehemently opposes violence and desecration of law and order.
Lest we forget, we would like to implore the government to address the following cardinal issues.
- Evolve a transformative collaboration with various stakeholders to accelerate the holding of a VIOLENCE-FREE ELECTIONS comes October 10, 2023;
- Attach some seriousness to FUNDING the National Elections Commission (NEC) to enhance its work;
- Improve the living conditions of the citizens through the empowerment of Liberian businesses as well as placing premium on mainstream media vis-à-vis budgetary support in the National Budget;
- Ensure the reduction in fees for healthcare delivery services at all public health centers across the country;
- Ensure the unconditional prosecution of all public officials implicated in acts of corruption as reflected in VARIOUS AUDITS REPORTS released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
In its ongoing fight against corruption, The INDEPENDENT supports the government of Liberia but would like to also encourage it to go beyond selective prosecution of accused persons.
Such investigations must also include the passport ‘rocket,’ US$100 Million drug smuggling claim, claims of corruption involving some counties’ Health teams, and other alleged malpractices at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA), FAWAZ’s Gola Forest, among others.
I extend my sincere gratitude to some of the founding fathers of The INDEPENDENT newspaper including Cllr. D. Adolphus Karnuah, Philip Moore, Jr. Crispin Tulay, and D. Robert Moncio Kpadeh and the current editorial team of the paper led by Mr. J. Alfred Chea, as Editor-In-Chief; C. Wilbert Todd, Layout Specialist; and includes reporters Varney Dukuly, G. Emmanuel Garsuah, H. Richard Fallah, Frank P. Martin, Robert Dixon, among others.
I also want to salute some of fallen heroes of the Investigative INDEPENDENT including Alfred F. Sebah, former Editor-In-Chief; Samuel Kpakpayezee Duwokor, Editorial Consultant; Lamin Kamara, Proof-Reader; among others for your lofty ideals, commitment and dedication to service.
Happy 22nd Anniversary and God Bless Us All.
Sam O. Dean