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The INDEPENDENT Newspaper 23RD Anniversary Statement

by newsmanager

Greetings to our Valued Customers and Subscribers
Monday, June 3, 2024 marks the 23rd Anniversary of The ‘Investigative’ INDEPENDENT Newspaper which is involved with critical, investigative and fair journalism, spanning over two decades.

The paper is also committed to encouraging national leaders and Liberians in general to maintain the country’s hard-won peace and democracy, and to create and foster an environment of socio-economic growth and development.

As many Liberians and friends of Liberia may be aware of some of those dark days in the country’s history, The INDEPENDENT is among few of the media houses that stood the test of time, especially during the dreadful administration of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, with the detention of its editors and persistent threats against them, then, 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 even in the face of dreaded elite force of the now disbanded Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), headed, then, by the then President’s dreaded son, ‘Chuckie Taylor’.

During the infamous Taylor era, THE INDEPENDENT newspaper unearthed several financial scandals including the kick-backs in the purchase of government vehicles, the organized scheme of the purported disappearance of a mouthwatering US$200,000, then, at the Ministry of Finance, now Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the questionable sale of several donated items from friendly countries by public officials including the then first family among others.

When the then feared Taylor regime exited, the transitional administration, headed by former Liberian businessman, the Charles Gyude Bryant, as Chairman, some of his officials began to engage in “business-as-usual,” apparently taking into consideration the civil war that effectively ravaged the country, then, and for other pecuniary gains.

Credible reports of Kick-backs in the purchase of government cars resurfaced in the corridors of the then transitional regime that also including representative of former armed warring factions, but The INDEPENDENT did not relent in exposing those who were thought to be involved including Chairman Bryant and many of his cronies in such dubious deal, then, with local car dealers.

The reports of corruption in the Bryant-led transitional administration was so pervasive that the Liberian media were compelled to call for the intervention of the sub-regional body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to safeguard the best interest of the country and its people, most of whom find themselves at the bottom of its economic ladder.

Claims of corruption jamboree awash the entire transitional government in every sector ranging from the importation of rice to the licensing of mobile phone companies.

While we were exposing such systemic acts of 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 elected female President declared ‘Corruption as Public Enemy Number One.’

President Johnson-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, then, Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), for sale on a commission basis.

Again, we took on the matter with the government through professional media investigation to know why the new administration, 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, now defunct, 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 at home and abroad.

While the probe of 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, now Ministry of 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 some of the country’s top ruling and influential elites, 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), Madam Beatrice 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), then, 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 Johnson-Sirleaf-led 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 bitter experiences, 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 regular electricity supply, hit the roof production/printing cost, staff allowances, news gathering and other overhead expenditures, thus, placing the media in Liberia at a serious disadvantage.
During the administration of former football icon, George Manneh Weah, the struggle continued with harsh economic environment but with low political tension due to apparent support of media development partners.
And so, as we celebrate our TWENTY-THIRD (23) anniversary today, Monday June 3, we would like to take this time to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to all and sundry, especially our many valued customers, subscribers and partners during our long and bitter 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 enters another transition from former President George Manneh Weah to President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, as usual, we will continue to be objective, fair, balanced, accurate and fearless in exposing acts of abuse, waste and fraud, no matter who is involved.

All must rest assured that The INDEPENDENT will never compromise public interest and trust but will endeavor to increase its vigor in investigating malpractices, rights violations, among other vices, as it vehemently opposes violence and the desecration of law and order.

In its ongoing fight against corruption, The INDEPENDENT supports government prime project, styled, “ASSETS RECOVERY” but would like to also encourage President Boakai for his team to remain professional and law-abiding in the discharge of its operations.

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 Ambassador D. Robert Moncio Kpadeh.
We are also grateful to other professionals whose contributions to the growth and development of the Newspaper cannot be over emphasized: former Editors Jonathan Browne, D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh, Michael Reloaded Roberts, Lisa Dahn, the then head of the Finance Department.
Our salute goes to the current editorial team of the paper led by Mr. J. Alfred Chea, as Editor-In-Chief; C. Wilbert Todd, Office Manager/Layout Specialist; which also includes reporters Varney Dukuly, Frank P. Martin, Robert Dixon, among others.

I also want to salute some of the 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 their lofty ideals, commitment and dedication to service.
Happy 23rd Anniversary and God Bless Us All.

Sam O. Dean

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