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Liberians awoke Friday morning June 8 to the shocking death news of Tom Kamara, Managing Editor and Publisher of the New Democrat newspaper that occurred at St. Luc hospital in Brussels following a brief illness.
As we mourn at this institution the irreplaceable loss of our beloved boss, I bemoan the vacuum his loss will create at this entity, yea Liberia as a whole, and now muster the courage to travel memory lane outlining how the New Democrat Corporation began and the number of reprisals and intimidations endured by the institution and its staff, without discrimination.
Tom Kamara started the New Democrat, which first appeared on the newsstand on 3 December 1993. He had resigned as Director of Communications in the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) headed by Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer to establish the paper.
Others who teamed up with Tom were photojournalist Sando Moore, who resigned as Official Photographer to Dr. Sawyer; John H. T. Stewart, also then former Assistant Minister for Special Services at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs; and Lindsay Barrett, a Jamaican born Nigerian journalist who was liaison for the West African Economic Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).
Tom Kamara assumed the position of Managing Editor/Publisher of the newspaper and maintained this title until his demise.
Mr. Lindsay Barrett was deputy managing editor; John H. T. Stewart, associate editor; and Sando Moore, editorial consultant. Its first corps of reporters were Abdullah Dukuly, Joseph Teh, Charles Jackson and Omari Jackson. Thomas Blidii and Samuel Dopoe were computer operators while Jesse Plange was layout editor. This writer, then the youngest on the team, served as office assistant.
The fallen veteran Liberian journalist had revealed that he conceived the idea for a newspaper, intended to become and remain an alternative medium for Liberians to express themselves henceforth 1993. These historical facts are intended to dispel many false stories and speculations about the founding of the New Democrat.
Prior to a series of meetings which culminated in establishment of the paper and its maiden edition, Tom Kamara already had a mini printing press—The Society Publishers—where diverse commercial printing was done. That press was located adjacent Center Street gas station at the intersection of Benson and Center Streets.
Alternative because the paper was established during the heat of the Liberian civil war when the level of journalism nose dived to its lowest ebb in the country and ideological inclinations factionalized journalists depending on where in the Liberia they lived with the civil war.
Misinformation and flagrant disregard for ethical journalism then permeated the Liberian media landscape since those who controlled financial and material resources bought journalists and media houses to propagate their hate and vicious messages of propaganda.
Lindsay Barrett, in his article ‘Farewell to the New Democrat’, stressed that his dream was to see a media institution that would highlight the plight of the suffering masses of Liberia and pinpoint the violations that became commonplace across the country.
Our recent history is replete with evidences of how 99.9 percent of the local media in the country turned themselves
Many newspapers barely surviving then became propaganda organs of the highest bidder while marauding warlords hijacked and looted the country as though that was business as usual.
But the New Democrat found that very unusual and began reporting the excesses of warlords. To widen such reporting, Publisher Tom Kamara launched his famous column “Second Thoughts” where he analyzed national issues and in some instances debated with state authorities on particular issues.
He simultaneously launched “The Trial of Charles Ghankay Taylor” depicting that Mr. Taylor must face trial one day for atrocities he unleashed in Liberia.