By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It has become a tradition or culture that whenever an institution or individual celebrates or observes certain events like birthday or anniversary, such is usually characterized by felicitations and best wishes to the institution or individuals by friends, well wishers and others, primarily, wishing the person or institution well in future undertakings. In some instances, there are always sentiments, wishing the person or institution long life and prosperity in future endeavours.
It is logically to deduce that many times these greetings of goodwill are intended to motivate the person or institution to work harder for greater achievements and accomplishments, rather than being complacent for whatever achievements. More importantly, they are intended to inspire one or an institution to aim high in the attainment of whatever goals or aspirations set by that person or institution.
Like in the case of THE INQUIRER Newspaper that celebrated 24 years of existence last Thursday, it was obvious that this usual spirit of felicitations and compliments would come from certain individuals and institutions. This year was quite a different one as greetings even came from President Ellen-Johnson-Sirleaf.
Earlier, Vice President Joseph Boakai last Thursday and Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, an eminent politician, and a lover of the press, congratulated the newspaper for observing another anniversary. Also, Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, a journalist and Communicator, made similar compliments to the management and staff of the newspaper.
THE INQUIRER Newspaper, as it is known, was founded by some young Liberian journalists, who prior to the country’s civil conflict chewed their teeth with the Daily Observer. Today, it remains the oldest post-war independent newspaper that was established on January 15, 1991.
As stated earlier, the founders of the institution who were once in the employ of the Daily Observer Newspaper established The INQUIRER to fill in the gap of communication which was disrupted as a result of the Liberian civil crisis. The Daily Observer Newspaper at the time was shut down due to the civil crisis.
The six young men saw the need to give Liberians and others who fully relied on the BBC news, firsthand information in relations to the crisis and progress that was made by the international community in ending the crisis and bringing peace in the country. Since 1991, the paper has continued to survive in spite of the difficult circumstances it encountered during the civil crisis in October 1992 with “Operation Octopus”, April 6, 1996, September 1998, and the 2003 saga that has been dubbed:” “War, War II, and Ill”. The institution suffered a major setback during the April 6. 1996 war as its offices on Carey Street at the time were set ablaze.
Despite this major setback, the staff, with strong determination and commitment to serving the Liberian people, the management, upon the cessation of hostilities, began operating in the burnt offices on Carey Street.
It was from that unsafe offices, that it was able to produce the first newspaper after the April 6 incident that also recorded that as a short period that experienced the worst looting in recent time. There is likelihood that this massive looting in Monrovia might apopear in the Guiness Book of Record, as “The Worst Looting Incident In Few Hours.”
The incident was a result of conflict among some of the warring factons in Monrovia at the time. That incident which has now been recorded in Liberian history, saw a marriage of convenience between the rivalry forces of Charles Taylor and that of AlhajiKromah combining forces to arrest another warlord the late Roosevelt Johnson, who had broken ranks with Kromah, thereby atomizing ULIMO into two factions- ULIMO-J (Roosevelt Johnson) and ULIMO-K (AlhajiKromah).
Howbeit, this piece is not intended to historicize as much had been said and reported about the history of the Liberian civil conflicts and its chronological events. What I try to do here today is to reflect and analyze some of the complimentary statements and greetings from the President of Liberia and others.
In her remarks last Friday via mobile phone, the President said to me, “I just call to thank you for the long years of professionalism.” She then asked how everything was. I then replied, “We are doing our best.” As for VeepBoakai, who called on Thursday, the day of the anniversary, praised the paper for “staying in there despite all of the challenges.” He described the event as an indelible “milestone.”
Similarly, Dr. Tipoteh, who has received many awards for being a positive politician, and popularly referred to as “man on the ground” for his positive engagement with the authorities on issues of national concern, hailed the newspaper for its respect “for meritism, where assignments/promotions/rewards are given to a person because the person demonstrates commitment to telling the truth.”
Dr. Tipoteh, the venerable leader of the Movement For Justice in Africa (MOJA), went on to say, “ within the context of telling the truth, one is designated a task with attendant benefits on the basis of record/performance rather than on the basis of money used to influence decisions. Then, there is respect for the culture of justice where people are treated fairly, demonstrating that the pen is mightier than the sword, thereby inspiring people, especially the youths, to use non-violent methods in attending to problems, no matter how difficult.”
For his part, Internal Minister Dukuly, in his encomium to the paper Friday morning, commended it for its high level of maturity in its reportage. Particularly, he thanked me for trying to provide some pieces of advice to upcoming journalists. He said he was impressed with my recent comments about distinguishing between news, editorials and commentaries. “I hope the young people are listening to you; I hope they are learning lessons from you,” Minister Dukuly pointed out.
Also, a Liberian financial expert in the United States ,AustineFallah , thanked the paper for withstanding the test of time for 24 years. “Your dedicated service to the people of Liberia through professional journalism must be commended by all well meaning Liberians and Liberian partners in progress. You have been there for your nation through good, difficult and very, very bad times…”
Even yesterday, during the paper’s anniversary worship service at the Immanuel Church on the S.D. Cooper Road in Paynesville, the Senior Pastor of the Church, S. AdreanNeufville urged the staff of the newspaper to always strive for the truth. He then said, “everything in life is not for profit, but service,” and pointed that if one wants to get something, such person must work for it.
As the institution plans to climax the celebration this weekend with a “Family Day,” let me say that I take serious note of all of these complimentary comments that have been made by the President and others. Personally I see these congratulatory comments as a challenge to The Inquirer, which today stands as a pride for this country because it has been able to survive all odds and uncertainties during the years of conflict.
The fact that THE INQUIRER continues to operate in a peaceful environment, much is expected of it, and more so, if it can operate as a professional institution during crisis time, then, it is bound to succeed and also to remain a symbol of what can happen when people move on with courage, determination and commitment for a common purpose and goal.
As we enter another year of operation, we are aware of the challenges before us and notwithstanding, we wish to assure the public and others of our commitment to continue to remain professional and adhere to the ethical standard of the profession. We see these comments and messages on our anniversary as a challenge to continue to do the best we can to command the respect and admiration of the public.
With God above, we will always strive to live up to expectations, being fully aware that , as humans, we are not perfect, but will always conceal and act accordingly to correct ourselves, as this would add more to how the public sees us. As humans, we will always strive to be professional, accurate and objective, and at the same time be fully aware of our social responsibility, which demands that we put the interest of the society above all other things.
Lastly, to say it the Liberian way, we will not behave like “white children” that decolor its whiteness just after being praised for being immaculate.
Once again, we pledge our commitment to GOOD JOURNALISM and also being an antithesis of mediocrity for a better Liberia. As the Pastor challenged us yesterday, while being aware that we are also in business, we will remain focused in serving the interest of the society.