Sunday, 3rd, June, 2023, marked the 22nd Birth Anniversary of the ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT Newspaper.
Since its establishment and subsequent entrance onto the already challenging Liberian media landscape, The INDEPENDENT has been actively involved in Investigative and Fair Journalism and, at the same time, helping to sensibly direct the Nation, the government and other stakeholders relative to the significance of ensuring socio-economic growth and development, genuine reconciliation and healing, inclusive governance, peace and tranquility in Liberia.
As well-meaning Liberians and the country’s development partners may be aware, The Investigative INDEPENDENT is rightly counted among some of Liberia’s skilled and respected media institutions based primarily on its ethical, courageous, unwavering, and untiring commitment to serving the best interest of the country and its people and the uncompromising application of the ‘ABC’ of the journalism profession which includes Accuracy, Balance and Clarity in our reporting works.
Indeed, the paper, without any molecule or atom of doubt, had gallantly stood the tests of time over the years, and remains ever committed to ensuring nothing less than making our dear country a better place for all citizens and residents, leaving nobody behind.
This is the struggle from which we can never run away even with bullets from the corridors of tyrants, dictators and their diehard foot soldiers are pointed to our chest. In other words, we shall remain committed to using our professional pens and notepads to promote the positive wellbeing of our country and its people.
We remain unwaveringly committed to safeguarding the peace, development and progress of our country, using our editorial pages to promote peace, unity and inclusive democratic governance.
In the same vein, we shall never bow or fall prey to roaming and other emerging despots, autocrats and tyrants as we are prepared to carry out our professional duties without any fear or favor.
Frankly, we have no friend, and we equally have no foe as we remain supportive of this noble cause even with our sweat, blood and tears as we gallantly demonstrated multiple times during the erstwhile dreadful and dictatorial administration of former President Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor and other succeeding regimes who tried unsuccessfully to cow us into submission to their whims and caprices.
During the totalitarian, cruel and painful regime of Taylor, editors and reporters of THE INDEPENDENT newspaper were often victims of unwarranted and unlawful detention, persistent threats, intimidation, and harassment by merciless and pro-regime security officers and apologists.
Amid such unfavorable atmosphere that effectively awash the Liberian state, then, THE INDEPENDENT firmly stood graciously in exposing blatant and unbridled human rights violations, financial crimes and other abuses in both public and private spheres, and without any fear or favor.
For instance, during the erstwhile Taylor era, we unearthed several financial scandals including kick-backs in the purchase of government vehicles, organized schemes 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 state-owned natural resources and other assets by multiple public officials including those, then, at the echelon of state-power and their lackeys.
When Taylor’s government exited, his former Vice President, Moses Z. Blade, (late) briefly ascended to the nation’s presidency.
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 then 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 acts of corruption including the siphoning of state funds and other resources.
Reports of Kick-backs in the purchase of government cars resurfaced in the corridors of power as The INDEPENDENT did not hesitate to expose many of those key players who were suspected to be involved in such acts of thievery against the supreme interest of the state.
Reports of corruption in the Bryant-led transitional administration, among many other vices compared the media and other key stakeholders in Liberia to call for ECOWAS intervention, then.
In other words, the corruption jamboree infested the entire transitional administration, then, severely affecting almost every sector of the Nation’s economy, ranging from importation of rice to mobile phone companies licensing.
While we were courageously and professionally helping in exposing such malpractices which were linked to 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 ascendancy to the Liberian presidency, Madam Johnson-Sirleaf’s 2005 campaign promises were not taken seriously until she decided to formally include some of the promises in her inaugural speech as she declared corruption “Public enemy number one.”
Said declaration was made before a record crowd of citizens, and witnessed by an array of local and foreign dignitaries including former US First Lady, Laurel Bush; and former US Secretary of State, Condelenze Rice.
Regrettably, about five months into Madam Johnson-Sirleaf’s incumbency, about 3,060 metric tons of Chinese donated rice were detected to have been secretly given to a local rice dealer, through the defunct Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), on a commission basis.
Again, we took up the matter for expert investigation as to why the then transitional government failed to inform its citizens about the donation and how it intended, then, to use the rice for the benefit of the citizens for whom it was intended.
The Liberian government, through the Ministry of Commerce, later admitted that the rice was given to a local dealer but claimed 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 much-needed INFO on state related matters for the common good of the nation, decided to investigate the then controversial ‘Nigerian Oil’ Deal which was between the governments of Liberia and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The reported secrecy which 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 volumes of dossiers that highlighted claims of malpractices at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, then.
The scheme related to the sale, and the awarding of mining rights and licenses, which were said to have been characterized by double-crossing of foreign investors since 1985 by some senior officials of the Ministry, then, for their pecuniary gains.
Classified state security records, also indicated then, that some of those who were suspected to be associated to the scandal paid some notorious criminals to kill or assassinate THE INDEPENDENT’S Publisher, Sam O. Dean, aimed at throwing the case into the dustbin of history. Thank God that such devilish plan did not materialize as it was already exposed to the public in its embryonic (developing) stage.
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 the Liberian Nation, thorough and fearless investigative reporting generally by the media, including the Investigative INDEPENDENT, irritates many powerful 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 reportedly passed to the then Director of the Liberia National Police (LNP), to unlawfully shot down the paper without due process of law and subsequently declared Publisher Dean a WANTED man, then.
Nevertheless, the Investigative INDEPENDENT, being a law-abiding entity, formally communicated such threat with various authoritative international umbrella groups of the global media 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 brazen harassment and intimidation of its staffs, calling for the paper’s reopening.
Moreover, the Board of Editors of the paper decided to file a Writ of Prohibition to the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia against the Liberian Government, then, headed by Nobel Laureate, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, protesting against the newspaper’s arbitrary and unlawful closure and calling for its immediate reopening.
Interestingly, however, following six months of intense legal tussle involving lawyers of the Government and THE INDEPENDENT, the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) then, headed by Dr. Lawrence K. Bropleh, decided to lift the ban on the paper two days to delivering the final ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia, thus giving a clear but unwarranted lead over the then, government.
These are just few of the bitter struggles and tedious challenges that we, as a media entity faced and continue to face, 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 outlets 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, leading to some of the media entities to be asphyxiated from the media landscape.
And so, as we celebrate our twenty-two (22) Anniversary on June 3rd, 2023, the Board of Directors, Management and Staffs of THE INDEPENDENT, are exceedingly delighted to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to our many valued customers and subscribers whose unreserved support and encouragement keep us going forward.
We also want to encourage our esteem vendors and readers who have immensely contributed to this success story of the Investigative INDEPENDENT to rest assured that we remain professional and dedicated to providing you world-class media services, with the sky being our limit, and the omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (ever-present) God, as our director and protector.
Indeed, all must rest assured that The INDEPENDENT will not compromise public interest and trust and will remain vigorous in the professional investigation of crimes, rights violations and acts of fraud, waste, and abuse at all strata of the Liberian nation and beyond.
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.
Political parties, their leaders and supporters, civil society and pro-democracy groups, as well as other stakeholders must rest assured that we will continue to give equal access to all and sundry and work in the best interest of the country, and for the consolidation of Liberia’s hard-won peace and democracy.
In this same vein, the PUBLISHER, of this paper, is profoundly delighted to publicly appreciate some of the founding fathers of The Investigative INDEPENDENT Newspaper and best journalistic minds that Liberia has to offer including Cllr. D. Adolphus Karnuah, Philip Moore, Jr., Crispin Tulay, Dr. Robert Wilmot Dekontee Kpadeh, J-Karba Williams and Michael Reloaded Roberts.
Others are veteran journalist, Alfred Sebah (late) and Samuel Kpakpayezee Dawokor (late).
Many thanks also go to the current Editorial Team of the Investigative INDEPENDENT, headed by Alfred Juteh Chea, as Editor-In-Chief; and C. Wilbert Todd, Layout Specialist.
Happy 22nd Anniversary and may God Richly Bless us all.