Liberia: Frontpage Africa, One Of Nine Media Outlets In The World Highlighted By Dw Akademie For It’s Investigative Journalism

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HAMBURG – DW Akademie, the Deutsche Welle’s Center for International Media Development and Germany’s leading provider of international media training, noted for strengthening the human right to freedom of expression, has trumpeted and documented the investigative work of FrontPageAfrica in its new publication, After the Scoop.

The publication’s release coincides with the 11th Global Investigative Journalism Conference being held in Hamburg, Germany, bringing more than 1,800 investigative journalists from around the world.

Carsten Von Nahmen, head of DW Akademie, in an editorial to the publication said the goal of highlighting the investigative work of selected investigative publications from around the world, is to show that quality journalism in general, and investigative journalism in particular, can thrive in the midst of mounting challenges. “This publication is a way to contribute to the discussion on media viability for investigative media outlets- and might also provide inspiration to media in the Global North.”

Besides FrontPageAfrica, Nigeria’s Premium Times, Tempo of Indonesia, Rappler of Phillippines, Atlatszo of Hungary, Krik of Serbia, Agencia Publica of Brazil, Plaza Publica of Guatemala and Mada Masr of Egypt are also featured.

The publication notes that despite repeated imprisonment of its managing editor, Rodney D. Sieh, and multiple threats and arrests of its staff, FPA continues to push the agenda in Liberia’s media landscape. “They know what attracts their readers and main advertisers: quality reporting on topics that have traditionally not been covered.”

The publication notes the 2007 Knucklesgate saga as one of the newspaper’s most impactful investigations. “Handed to the papers’s editor by an anonymous source in Washington, DC, the scandal exposed widespread corruption among top government officials in the former administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, which had been elected to office in 2006.

Among the stash of emails, the publication notes were a series of emails written by former Minister of State Willies Knuckles who had solicited money from foreign companies in exchange for government contracts. The emails showed that, in one case alone, Knuckles had solicited a US$2.5 million “success fee” from a company that had won a mining contract in Liberia’s mineral-rich western region.

The investigative report led to the cancellation of US1 billion worth of concessions and several government officials fired.

“Although in the beginning of the Sirleaf Presidency there was not much attention on Liberia with regards to corruption, I think towards the end one saw that the work we have been doing all along pointed to some issues of discrepancies,” the paper’s editor, Rodney Sieh, said.

The publication also notes the draconian criminal  and libel law still affecting journalist in Liberia.

“Libel and criminal defamation are crimes under Liberian law for which you are tried in criminal court”, Daniel Nyakonah, Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia says.

Mae Azango, one of the paper’s fearless reporters who has received numerous international awards for her work on women and gender-based violence, with hard-hitting investigations on prostitution, police brutality, rape and human trafficking laments that women’s stories are not regularly reported because most newspapers are dominated by men.

Says Azango: “So women’s stories were always trashed. In fact, women reporters were not given hard stories; instead they got to cover parties and social event. They said women reporters were not tough.”

Azango’s most important work came between 2010 and 2012 when she reported on different aspects of female genital mutilation and even went undercover to interview women who practice FGM. The report triggered nationwide discussions and within a month’s of the investigation, the Sirleaf-led government announced that activities around FGM were to be indefinitely suspended, marking the first time a government had addressed the issue.

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