4 December 2012

Liberia: Informer Turns Nine Today - Promises Commitment to Ethical Journalism

Today is December 4th, and it marks the birthday of The Informer Newspaper, one of Liberia's reliable news organs, providing balanced, accurate and credible information not only to Liberians here but to the world at large.

The Informer published its first edition on December 4, 2003, with offices at the Captain Building on Broad Street, and has since remained on the newsstand, becoming one of the country's reliable and trusted newspapers.

The newspaper started as a tri-weekly tabloid under the watchful eyes of several employees, including committed editors and reporters that operated without an internet service, let alone a website. Three years later, in 2006, the paper went daily, becoming one of the first five local newspapers to run a website.

The paper and its staff have over the years maintained a character of professionalism and ethics of journalism, in the face of daunting economic challenges, high production cost, while accurately informing the public without fear or favor of events in society.

Martin N. Toe, the first Editor-In-Chief of the Paper, along with others including the paper's longest serving staff Kevin Tydehson (outgoing Editor-In-Chief) and Managing Editor Darkollie Sumo worked tirelessly to establish and stabilize the editorial policy of the paper.

This editorial policy has been extensively expanded over the years to incorporate issues that concern the entire Liberian society such as development, human rights, the environment, investigative reporting on corruption, among several others.

For instance, the paper had to radically adjust itself to the emerging need for peace and the necessity to positively propagate peace messages enshrined in the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2003 that closed the chapter on war in Liberia.

During the entire transitional period in Liberia (2003-2005, The Informer played its traditional role as an information disseminator, educator, entertainer and a watchdog of the society, with a duty to protecting the peace hard won.

The Informer Newspaper has not operated without the normal economic and technical ups and downs experienced by nearly all media institutions in post conflict countries, but has never compromised professionalism.

At present, The Informer has basically adjusted itself to incorporate issues of human rights, the environment and rural development, and critical reporting, aimed at compelling national authorities and the Liberian public in general in taking appropriate decisions that will make the country better for all, by avoiding vices that brought the country on bended needs for more than 14 years.

The role played by the Informer and its Editors during both the 2005 and 2011electoral processes cannot be overstated. Amongst other things, the Informer helped to level the political playing field by giving all participants considerably equal space to publish whatever was necessary.

This is probably one reason why The Informer was never accused of bias or ethical lapses during and after these critical elections that have measured the country's democratic strength.

While carefully reviewing public policy, this paper remains in firm control of its editorial policy to serve as an informer of the truth that helps to sustain the peace and build the Liberian society.

Over the years, the paper has won both institutional and individual (reporters) awards. Some are the Best Human Right Reporting Newspaper in 2009, Best Print Journalist PRS Reporter Award (by its News Editor D K Sengbeh in 2008), Human right reporting award (reporter Roland Perry), while the paper's former News Editor now Editor-In-Chief was recently awarded by the UN for his contribution to journalism in Liberia. The paper boasts of several other awards from local NGOS.

At this 9th anniversary, Mr. Kevin S. Tydehson, the longest serving Editor-In-Chief, is being honorably retired for his matchless role to the successful running of the paper.

He recalls how it was not an easy task running the paper from the initial stage. "I was everything--Sub-Editor, Production Assistant, Office Boy and typesetter," Mr. Tydehson recalled. "I think I have done my best and I am now an old man who needs to rest," Kevin said. "I am not leaving the media all together...I will still come here and even write some articles, but I can no longer able to work the way I did in the past," the outgoing Editor-In-Chief noted recently in a meeting.

I am a journalist and I will always be a journalist even as I have retired on our anniversary...I thank all of you for working with me and working together to bring The Informer this far," he said.

"Nobody who did not love this paper could have served like Kevin," the incoming Editor-In-Chief D Kaihenneh Sengbeh said. "No matter how hard we work here we will not match Kevin's contribution to this paper," Sengbeh noted. "To me, he's a father of this paper by virtue of his age and invaluable contributions."

Meanwhile the Managing Editor Darkollie Sumo said The Informer will continue to relentlessly inform the Liberian people and the world at large with credible and factual information without fear or favor. "That's the foundation on which we were established, and we will not betray that and our tens of thousands of followers locally and online."

He said he appreciate all the criticisms against the paper, because these criticism help the paper to be stronger and productive. "Sometimes people say the paper is soft, sometimes the very public say it is strong and critical; at other times they say The Informer is pro-government, but others will say we are opposition paper," Sumo stated. "Whatever the people say about us is their view and this shows that we have people out there reading our work, and that's the essence for our existence."

Mr. Sumo said the fact that the paper, the media at large, criticizes, it should be expected to also be criticized, "but whatsoever the case may be, we cannot and should never compromise ethics and professionalism, least to publish information that will undermine the security of the state."

In the match that takes the paper to a decade-long existence, Sumo said the paper will remain committed to professionalism and do more investigative stories more than ever before.

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