Anniversary Avowal by Managing Editor Stanley Seakor
The Analyst is today 20 and I, as founder and Managing Editor, while praising the almighty God, will also acknowledge the unrelenting support and solidarity that the newspaper has got during this time from the good people of this country. The Analyst has neither benefited from a political and nonpolitical patronage, but has made it for twenty long years feeding largely on professionalism, style, prudent management regime, and above all, on the moral goodwill of commoners for whom the paper on August 13, 1998, hit the news market.
Some may ask: You’re 20 years now; so what? What Liberia has got to do with that? Much, I would answer immediately. I have always declined to engage in self-praises, but the records are clear regarding how The Analyst has added value to the Liberian media landscape. Born during the highly risky days of the county’s political administration, some called it the despotism, of President Charles Ghankay Taylor, The Analyst brought insightful analysis and penetrating research to news gathering and dissemination. The hungry newspaper reading public soon uncovered the difference in style and perspective on issues; they subsequently therefore instantaneously turned and rushed for the paper which started its appearance on the newsstand once initially, then biweekly and thereafter daily.
When The Analyst emerged on the newsstand in 1998, the nation was edging for renewed military hostilities following barely a year and half pause from seven years of internecine war. Another round of war drums was sounding in the North, and as characteristic of the war years, skepticism grew to intensity over every move and yank. Certainly, the new newspaper on the bloc soon fell to the suspicion mill and began to be branded with various unfavorable and demonizing appellations. We were tainted, blacklisted, and even construed as anti-establishment and anti-status quo. My staff members and I were hunted down like common quarries. Making matters worse, our analytical, objective, and fearless mode of reportage while others cast tails between the legs, made us even more subject of surveillance, harassment and brutality.
Day in day out, security operatives covertly frequented the premises of our offices, perhaps to see who entered and with whom we spoke. The suspicion and surveillance did not remain superficial; they degenerated or matured into physical actions. Many times our offices were summarily shut down and our equipment seized without warrant on the excuse that we were “agent provocateurs” and “enemies of the government” of Charles Taylor. Individually, at times collectively, my staff were rounded up and thrown in common jail on mere police suspicion. In all of these, we were like sheep being taken to the slaughterhouse.
I remember one particular day when plainclothes but armed security operatives bundled us up into a pickup, took us to Police Headquarters. Two men held me by my belt, and with my toes longing for the floor of the stairs, they ran upstairs speeding with me towards the third storey. Almost drowned in my own breath (having lacked physical exercise for long) I was dashed before their commander who began to walk over me and other staff brandishing with a pistol and pouring invectives at us.
The official suspicion, hate and persecution of the young newspaper, The Analyst, was crowned with the arrest and imprisonment incommunicado of my Editor-In-Chief Hassan Sekou Bility. We could hardly complain because we were too scary to complain, knowing that the courts were themselves even scarier and wished we were never arraigned before them. How dare we celebrate in this situation? How dare we celebrate when we were under official surveillance and market interdiction – in which major businesses were instructed not to give us advertisements? How do we conceive the idea to celebrate when survival – finding the production cost for the next edition – was as difficult; to paraphrase the words of Jesus Christ, as “an elephant passing through the eye of a needle?”
When the storm was relatively calm, and we were less concerned about security to our persons and the future of The Analyst, we began to bring ingenuity to bear as the amiable political space was sparking the birth of a mushroom of media organs. In the face of the competition, we set out to first increase our frequency to daily and the volume from an eight-page paper to 12. Soon, much planning and prudent management yielded the desired results: sales increased, and advertisement and revenues ballooned and then we were able to procure more logistics and equipment.
With The Analyst surviving all these to reach its 20th Anniversary, I hereby renew my pledge that we, as a media institution, will continue to inform our people and the world about developments shaping the destiny of our dear country as fairly, objectively and professionally as possible. Our valuable readers, advertisers and compatriots can rest assured, however, that we will not be in the business of shielding evil doers even if that will be counted against us as being “unpatriotic”; for we believe, peace and human rights protection are inevitable universal precepts evildoers have the tendency to ignore in consideration that they not part of the universal brotherhood from which national prosperity is strewn. By this we hope to help our people understand the dynamics of everyday occurrences on their own survival, growth, and development hinge.
We want to remind the George Weah Administration as we continue this difficult task of balancing the promotion of the image of the country against the excesses of some public officials that our mission is to help government cleanse its image and the image of the country, not to incite people against the government or unprofessionally amplify the voices of critics but to give voice to the voiceless, the critics and to the underprivileged. When the voices of critics and The Analyst are in accord, it will be sheer coincidence built in the fact that the critics were for once circumspect.
I cannot conclude this Anniversary Statement without commendation to the recent past and present regimes for their levels of tolerance of the critical voices that are resonating through The Analyst into the development agenda of the country. This level of tolerance of voices in The Analyst and the entire Liberian media manifests in the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration in 2012 by Sirleaf administration, joining a global movement dedicated to replacing statutes under which journalists and media practitioners may be prosecuted as criminal defendants for criminal defamation. The Analyst is further thankful to the Weah regime for upholding all of the anti-democratic laws signed by past regime and evening improving on these laws which could by far hinder the independent voices in the media, including The Analyst. The Analyst believes that decriminalizing the media laws of Liberia and quashing draconian legislations is a milestone not only intended for media performance in the country, but will also validate the yearnings of the government and people for the democratization of the country.
We are also grateful to our international partners who have supported, morally and by other means, the existence of the Liberian media including The ANALYST to have grown to this level of independence. It is our ardent belief that all of the successes in the face of market interdictions, summary arrest and intimidations and closures that were surmounted, and the new era of decriminalized media laws and contents that have increased the chances of pluralized democracy and media viability by which The Analyst’s 20th anniversary is occasioned would not have survived possibly had it not been the interventions and support of the international community – our international partners. It is for this reason that I have credited The Analyst’s survival to its 20 years of existence not only to the professional fierceness of its management and staff, but also for all those who have worked in concert at diverse spheres. Finally, we thank those who send us greetings and identified with us relative to our celebration today. Happy Anniversary not only to The Analyst’s family but to the Liberian people in general.