Tony Lawal And Sam Cooper’s Fracas: Where Is The “Third Side” Of The Story?

By Atty Phlip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Over the past few days, I tried to restrain myself from delving into the ongoing issue between Tony Lawal and Sam Cooper, two businessmen in this country. Howbeit, circumstances surrounding this matter have made me to change gear, for which I have now decided on this twist to comment because the prevailing situation also borders on “Investigative Journalism,” which is all geared towards finding out the truth or veracity of a particular situation.

More importantly, I was inspired yesterday to do this based on information provided by police spokesperson Sam Collins and Atty Mamadee Diakite, a former talk show host, said to be a Communication Consultant to Tony Lawal yesterday on the LBS Super Morning Show, hosted by Sorbor George and Christopher Sirlee.

In most instances, Investigative Journalism seeks to put to rest all doubts and misgivings in such a situation. Furthermore, in Investigative Journalism, there are two sources; the Regular Source-what the journalist is told and the “Cultivated Source” what the journalists gathers while ferreting the truth on the subject matter.

It is for this reason that Investigative Journalism is sometimes referred to as the “THIRD SIDE” of the story. The first is the side of the accuser(the one making the allegation), the second side is that of the accused (the one who has been blamed for the alleged act) and “The Third Side” is the neutral side that which involves the journalist or media’s efforts to crosschecking information received from the first and second sides of that event.

Because of the importance of the third side, it is required that the journalist or media institution, expected to establish the truth of the matter MUST eschew all acts of partisan. This means, to say in the Liberian idiom, such person “has no fish to fry” in such matter. In other words, the media person or journalist is not allowed or permitted to editorialize (injecting personal views), but only reporting the truth.

Additionally, the person’s professional role is to provide all of the sides, including the one gathered through investigation to the public to be able to decide the truth of the matter.The person is barred from slanting the news or being bias in favor of any of the party. NO! This is unethical and unprofessional, as it is an antithesis to good journalism. Essentially, the journalist’s role is like that of a twin mother, caring and reporting for all.

Today, I am raising the issue of the “Third Side” because of the circumstances involved in this matter. It is alleged that Tony has been linked to shooting at the vehicle of Sam in the Fish Market area, which is in the proximity to the home of President Sirleaf that is guarded by security officers, including UNMIL peacekeepers. Besides, the area also houses the headquarters of the Emergency “Response” Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National police.Tony,who was arrested by the police on the allegation, has been released to his lawyer.

Considering this, the question here is whether or not the media, in keeping with investigative journalism, has visited the area and spoken to residents, including security officers because this was not a silent weapon, but one that gave sound. The media practitioners including me should not be relying on what the parties are saying, but by venturing out there to ascertain the truth, whether or not, there was any shooting incident.

My primary concern is not to know who did the shooting, but to establish whether or not, indeed, there was shooting, to be followed by the person who did the shooting not too far from the home of the President, something that rests with the security of the state.

For me, this is a very simple matter that needs no rocket scientist to unravel the truth in that the parties are on the grounds and the spot to which the reported shooting took place was visible. Therefore, this provides an easy opportunity for the media to find out the actual story or the hard facts in this matter to avoid unnecessary wrangling.

Who knows: this could be a “Personality Clash” between the two businessmen or competitors who desperately want to use the media and state security to buy sentiments and sympathy.