Liberia: Kenneth Best, Nine Others Admitted into PUL’s Hall of Fame

A little over 23 years since the launch of the Press Union of Liberia’s (PUL) annual excellence award, the union, through its awards and vetting committee for the first time introduced a new category, the PUL Hall of Fame.

The PUL Hall of Fame is a category designed to recognize journalists who have excelled and immensely contributed to the Liberian media landscape. Over the years, the ceremony had only been organized to honor the works of outstanding journalists during a period under review.

At an elaborate ceremony held at the Ministerial Complex, Daily Observer’s Kenneth Y. Best, along with nine others, including the late Stanton B. Peabody, Edward Wimont Blyden, Prof. James Wolo, Kamara Abdullia Kamara, Atty. Philip Wesseh, Elizabeth Hoff, Dr. C. William Allen, Rev, Suah Deddeh, and Frank Sainworla, who was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, were inducted into the PUL Hall of Fame.

The induction of Mr. Best and the rest of the inductees was marked by huge ovation from the audience, who considered the recognition of those individuals as duly deserved.

With over 60 years of experience in the journalism profession, Mr. Best has a long history of his numerous contributions to the Liberian media, Born in October 1938 in Harrisburg, Montserrado County, Liberia to parents of West Indian descent.

He studied at St. Patrick’s Elementary School on Snapper Hill, Monrovia. He entered Booker Washington Institute in 1959, graduating with a diploma in agriculture. On 2 December 1963, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from Cuttington University (CU) after studying there since 1960. During his years in CU, he ran a literary magazine, the Cuttington Review.

On 3 December 1963, he was appointed Assistant to the Dean of Liberal Arts of the University of Liberia. Between 1963 and 1965, he was a journalist at the Press and Publications Bureau for the Liberian government. In April 1964, he became an information officer for the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs in administration of President William R. Tolbert. He studied journalism at the Institut für Publizistik in Berlin, West Germany and later at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, where he received a Master’s Degree in Comparative Journalism in 1967.

In 1968, he returned home to Liberia and became the Director of Press and Publications. In 1972, he became Assistant Minister for Information in the Liberian Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT). He and his wife Mae Gene moved to Kenya in late 1973 and worked as information director of All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in Nairobi. He resigned from the AACC in 1980 and returned to Liberia with the vision to establish Liberia’s first independent daily.

In February 1981, Best and his wife founded the Daily Observer, Liberia's first independent daily newspaper. Under the Presidency of Samuel Doe, the Daily Observer was subject to sustained political harassment.

The First Liberian Civil War caused Best to relocate with his family in exile in The Gambia on 1 August 1990. There he founded Gambia's first independent daily newspaper on 11 May 1992, again called The Daily Observer. In October 1994, following Yahya Jammeh's military coup, Best was expelled from Gambia, after the newspaper ran a series of stories that were critical of AFPRC on human rights violations. Best, along with several of his reporters, was arrested on 21 October 1994 and detained for 36 hours, before being deported back to Liberia on 30 October 1994. 

Although the newspaper was allowed to continue after Best’s deportation, it was eventually shut down by tax authorities on 23 August 2017 for non-compliance of its tax obligations, incurred by Jammeh loyalists who took over the newspaper. 

Best and his family moved to the United States and was granted political asylum in January 1995. 

He continues to serve as the publisher of the Liberian Daily Observer. In 2012, Best published The Evolution of Liberia's Democracy: A Brief look at Liberia’s Electoral History – 1847-2011.

List of other Awards Presented:

Journalist of the Year: Lennart Dodoo (FrontPage Africa); Sports Reporter of the Year: Anthony Kokoi (Daily Observer); Health Reporter: Aria Deemie (Local V0ices); Environmental Reporter: Forgbe Kloh (LUX FM); Human Rights Reporter: Henry B. Gboluma Jr.; Land Rights Reporter: Varney Dukuly; Female Genital Mutilation: Evelyn Kpadeh Seagbeh; Newscaster of the Year: T. Wholquoi Yeagar (ELBC); Newspaper of the Year: FrontPage Africa; Radio Station of the Year: OK FM.