Press Release | FRONTLINE and ProPublica Investigate the Secret History of Firestone in Liberia
Firestone and the Warlord
Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings)
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What are the costs of doing business in a war zone?
On November 18, FRONTLINE and ProPublica will unveil Firestone and the Warlord, an investigation of the secret relationship between the American tire company Firestone and the infamous Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.
The multiplatform investigation — which will include a 90-minute documentary, a major text story also being published as an e-book, and a series of original digital shorts — is a revelatory window into how Firestone conducted business during the brutal Liberian civil war, drawing on previously unreported diplomatic cables, court documents, and inside accounts from Americans who helped run the company’s rubber plantation as Liberia descended into chaos.
“Charles Taylor and his brutal civil war shaped the Liberia of today,” says Miller, who has spent much of his career focusing on how corporations operate in foreign countries. “But unlike anything else that I’ve worked on, this story provides an extraordinary, inside look at the decision made by an iconic American corporation in dealing with a warlord.”
“It’s been remarkable to uncover just how interwoven the relationship between the company’s management and Taylor really was, and the extent to which Taylor made the plantation a base of operations as he waged a civil war that eventually killed an estimated 300,000 people,” says Gaviria (The Retirement Gamble; Money, Power and Wall Street; WikiSecrets; Obama’s War).
With unprecedented access to key participants, Firestone and the Warlord pieces together how the stories of Charles Taylor (the American-educated war criminal notorious for his use of child soldiers) and Firestone (Liberia’s largest single employer) intersected in fateful ways between 1989 and 1992.
The investigation uncovers the details of the deal Firestone struck with the warlord — how it channeled millions of dollars to Taylor in exchange for being able to operate – money that, in his own words, provided the “financial assistance that we needed for the revolution,” and how Taylor turned the plantation into a rebel base that he used to wage war.
With all eyes on Liberia as the country battles the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history, Firestone and the Warlord shines new light on the country’s history and its civil war — a conflict that left lasting scars on the country’s infrastructure and psyche — and raises provocative questions about corporate responsibility, accountability, and the ethical ramifications of doing business in conflict zones.
Firestone and the Warlord airs Tuesday, November 18 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and will stream in full, for free, online at pbs.org/frontline. The major text story by T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones and original digital shorts from acclaimed photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson will be available that same day at propublica.org and at pbs.org/frontline. The e-book will be available on Amazon.com.
Firestone and the Warlord is a FRONTLINE production with Rain Media in partnership with ProPublica. The writer, director and producer is Marcela Gaviria. The co-producers are Will Cohen and Maeve O’Boyle. The reporters are Jonathan Jones and T. Christian Miller. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 69 Emmy Awards and 16 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010, it was the first online news organization to win a Pulitzer Prize. In 2011, ProPublica won its second Pulitzer, the first ever awarded to a body of work that did not appear in print. In 2013, ProPublica won a Peabody Award. ProPublica is supported primarily by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, both through its own website and often to leading news organizations selected with an eye toward maximizing the impact of each article. For more information, please visit www.propublica.org.