Restating Our Mission, Our Heritage, Your Heritage
The need for an objective, analytical and interpretative as well as an advocacy media became acutely apparent after the 1996 head-on clash of warring factions in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. It was a period—we mean one of the periods—in which human rights abuses and/or violations reached their peak. It was also one of several outbreaks of violence that characterized 14 years of self-destruction.
Rebel factions became law onto themselves. Extra-judicial actions and infringements were rampant. People feared for their lives for there seemed to be no law. Monrovia and its environs, like the rest of the country, became a jungle. Few people or media institutions were prepared to chronicle and document well-orchestrated human rights abuses by elements of warring factions for posterity. It was a period in which Liberians and the international community needed accurate and objective reportage of events. It was a period in which analyses and interpretations became relevant for understanding the political, social and economic dynamics of a country at war with itself.
This was a crucial, challenging time—a time to expose the flagrant violations of the rights of the Liberian people. It was time for someone to speak for the weak, the disconsolate, the sexually abused, the children, the women and the elderly. It was time for someone to stand up for the Liberian people. It was time to amplify the clarion call for social justice for all so that the rest of the civilized world would intervene and bring the madness and inhumanity to an end. And the Heritage rose to the occasion. By October 1996, shortly after ECOMOG, the peacekeeping force of the Economic Community of West African States, restored relative peace to Monrovia, the paper made its debut appearance on the newsstands.
From the onset, it became clear that the Heritage was a different paper—in contents, style, layout and structure. Besides the front and back pages, the rest of the pages contained feature articles—dealing with topical issues for a people coming from war. It was and still is a family paper; it addresses crucial issues that touch the hearts of people inside and outside Liberia. The paper continues to set agenda for forums on the campuses of various colleges and universities as well as in governmental cycle and public gatherings around the country. Today, its circulation stands at 30,000 weekly. This number continues to rise as Liberia’s new democracy is solidified and strengthened day in, day out.
However, our passion to report the truth, all of the truths, was not without consequences. At the end of 1996, we made many friends. But, we also made few vicious, but powerful enemies in high places, mainly people in government and from the warring factions. At the end of 1997, the 3-month old government of Charles Taylor ordered the paper closed for publishing a story hailing the work of and sacrifices made by the ECOMOG peacekeepers in a story titled: ECOMOG’s Blood: Who Pays?
We resumed publication in mid-January 1998. In September 1998, the Taylor administration, after government forces carried out what it described as a “surgical operation” in a predominately civilian enclave to arrest a war-time opponent for subversion, the Heritage, again, became a target. The Taylor government closed the paper. It reopened in 2004 when Taylor was forced into exile and an interim government put into place. Our goals then, and now, remain the same: to champion human rights, democracy, social justice, freedom of expression and of the press, peace-building and conflict resolution, and the quest to improve humanity as a whole. The paper and its online publication, the Liberian Heritage, remain resolutely committed to upholding these goals—which define our editorial orientation—now and in the future.
Over 10 years after the paper started publication under the Heritage Communications Corporation, there is a dire need to expand its scope, contents and readership by encompassing the rest of the African continent, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. This expansion is necessary in view of the unavoidable changes in geopolitics and the interconnectedness of the rest of the world—in good times and in bad times. Our online publication is aimed at frontiers beyond our physical reach.
Heritage and its online publication will strive, as in the past, to provide accurate, objective information on issues at home and broad, and to promote unfettered freedom of expression and of the press, contribute to human growth and development and champion human rights as well as advocate for a safe environment, the reasons for which the Heritage newspaper came into existence in 1996.
Today, those challenges are more critical now that the nation is again beaming with and basking in democratic rather than dictatorial tendencies. We will remain ever vigilant in our quest to inform, educate and entertain Liberia, Africa and the world. We will not be deterred by people, who use economic power, to do their bidding. They can withdraw their support if they chose to do so.
Yet, we have consolation in the support—be it moral, financial or otherwise—we continue to get from our people, the Liberian people, and the rest of the world that truly sees our patriotism and our passion to see our nation-state unshackled from bad governance, especially fraud, waste and abuse—unpalatable enemies of development, good governance and realistic social change. We will expose those who think they can make everybody kowtow to their roguish, corrupt ways at the expense of the majority. We will damn the governors when the need arises; we will, equally, give them their kudos when the occasion demands.
We will fight those who prey on the ignorance, innocence and fear of Liberians. We will fight those who think public service is a leeway to wealth accumulation. We fight for decency. We fight for accountability. We fight for patriots—real patriots, the few good men and women who want to see this country move ahead; who want to see our people beat poverty, crush ignorance and overcome disease.
We will fight those who still harbor deep-seated grudges and vengeance for a land they so much exploited and impoverished for many years and have returned to do business as usual. Time has changed. The people and land have changed, too. We are on the side of truth and justice. We will always win. We will win today; we will win tomorrow just as we won yesterday.
So take away your support for not dancing to your immoral tunes; take away your support for not clapping for your conspiracy to amass wealth illegally and immorally. We do not care. We have never cared, anyway, for unprincipled men; men who take pride in other people’s suffering. We have no pride in dealing with con-artists and thieves. We rather remain poor and are respected than get rich while our country and people bleed from the unscrupulous actions of few unpatriotic, self-centered men whose only aim is to connive with foreign unscrupulous, self-styled business people to exploit the land and give the people a barren, wasteland.
This time, it is not going to be business as usual.
We will protect our people. And our land. For our children and children’s children. For posterity! We will not allow this to happen—never, never again. History is our guide and our solace. And history is not kind to those who knowingly repeat past mistakes, especially if they were part and parcel of those orchestrated events, misrule or oppressive events. Our crusade is a vision for Liberia and for humanity. We have not, then, and we shall not, now, betray the struggle, trust and confidence of Liberia, Africa and the rest of the world in our quest to contribute to human growth, development and integration.
This is our pledge to you — yesterday, today and tomorrow.