Top: Winners Ojuku Kangar and Emmanuel Sherman pose with their certificates. The DayLight/Varney Kamara

By Varney Kamara

MONROVIA – The DayLight has clinched two of this year’s Forest Media Awards for journalists who report impactful stories on the forestry sector.  

Emmanuel Sherman, an editor at the DayLight, won Best Report in the newspaper/online category, while Ojuku Kangar, scooped second place in the same category. Sherman walked away with a brand new motorcycle, and Kangar a laptop.

Aaron Geeplay, the station manager of the Liberty Broadcasting System in Sinoe County, sealed first place in the radio category, also taking home a   motorcycle.

Henry Gboluma took second place in the broadcasting category, and, like Kangar, was awarded a laptop computer.

Aaron George of the River Cess Broadcasting System (RBS) and Eric Opa Doue of the Bush Chicken, completed the winning six in the third places for the radio and newspaper/online categories, respectively. Each walked away with a mobile phone.

“This is an encouragement for journalists covering the sector. We are being motivated by this award,” an excited Sherman told the award ceremony at the City Hall of Monrovia on Friday evening. “This shows that The DayLight and others are making a great impact in the forestry sector.”

Forest Media Award is a collaboration between the Liberia Media Center and the Multi-stakeholders Forest Governance and Accountability Program (MF GAP), with funding from the United Kingdom. It is an endeavor meant to improve and increase the frequency of quality news reporting in the forestry sector. Last year, three journalists received the inaugural awards, which were increased by three and extended to journalists outside the Liberia Media Center’s network.    

 “Highly qualitative, investigative, and well-researched stories will ensure the protection of forest revenue and promote sectoral resilience,” said Neil Bradley, British ambassador to Liberia. “The exercise will create opportunity and support for sustainable agribusiness in Liberia.

“It will lead to transparency and accountability in the sector, including the protection and restoration of forest resources,” Bradley added.

The Stories that won the Awards

Sherman’s winning story highlighted challenges women face in their participation in forest governance ahead of this year’s elections in communities affected by logging contracts.  

British ambassador Neil Bradley flanked by four of the six winners. The DayLight/Varney Kamara

The piece that won the award for Kangar, a former reporter with The DayLight, uncovered a bogus memorandum of understanding between a community in District Number Two, Grand Bassa County, and a logging company. In the agreement, county and local officials sanctioned the company to extract logs in the area in exchange for a 75-kilometer dirt road without the approval of the Forestry Development Authority. James Harding Giahyue, the director/managing editor of The DayLight, broke the story in FrontPage Africa as a contributor in 2020.  

The four other winning articles were equally interesting.  Geeplay’s investigation focused on illicit occupants at the Sapo National Park. Gboluma, who also affiliates with The DayLight, reported a financial scandal involving leaders of the Korninga A Community Forest, who are now on trial for theft of property. Doue reported about the failure of logging contracts on rural communities in River Cess. And George’s story exposed the indebtedness of a logging company to a community in River Cess, showing the impact of the failure of the company to live up to its agreement in the lives of locals.

The DayLight Incorporated, a nonprofit, environmental online newspaper, was established in 2020 and began publishing in May last year. Throughout its short existence, it has published a number of investigative stories mainly on the logging industry, human rights, and land rights.

The awards were the institution’s first.  

“This is very big news for The DayLight and all stakeholders involved in the forestry sector,” said Giahyue at the end of the ceremony.  “As a young institution, we are honored to be recognized. This is a motivation and a justification for the sacrifices we are making.

“Those who want to win these awards in the future will have us to contend with,” he added.

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