Below is an article written by Gibril Gbanabome Koroma when questions were raised over Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and the support he got from Freedom Forum - an organisation that was supposed to be a bulwark for press freedom and expression. What he and Seaga Shaw never told Freedom Forum was their part in the suppression of free speech and the murder and harassment of other journalists who were thought to be pro democrats and were against the excesses of the Johnny Paul Koroma junta.
Victor Sylver Makes Me Sad
Gibril Gbanabome Koroma
My friend Victor Sylver's attack on Shaw through the FREEDOM FORUM left me with mixed feelings tinged with overwhelming sadness.
Let me first of all state that Victor, in all probability, did not expect the Forum to go public with that malicious, libellous, irrational and vindictive piece of writing.
Since the crisis in our country in May 1997 some people calling themselves journalists, in a self-righteous sort of way, have, instead of finding something useful to do with their lives, been contacting international media organisations to vilify colleagues with whom they have an axe to grind. I never knew Victor can come down so low until I saw his letter.
But what angers me a whole lot is that some of these organisations never cross check the information they receive about some people but will stupidly swallow everything hook, line and sinker and then go on to blacklist such people. I have a couple of such organizations in mind and at the appropriate time I shall expose them for the world to see the kind of creatures they are.
Yes Gibril. Kindly carry out your threat of exposing those organisations. Maybe IFEX in 1997 with this report on press and other freedoms in 1997?
People should realise that there is nothing the average Sierra Leonean knows more than to bring his brother down and smash him in the dust, this is one of the many causes of the present war which again many foreigners stupidly attribute to diamonds alone. I would therefore like to doff my hat to the FORUM for having the good sense to inform Shaw about what Victor had said and thus allowing him to defend himself.
Everyone now knows the web of lies that you and your type spun on the internet. Your crony Seaga Shaw's so-called "truth" lies in ruins after evidence emerged that your kind have been on a campaign of deceit and lies to gain the sympathy of some institutions, never telling them of your actual role during junta rule in 1997.
Other organizations I know very well would have just insanely kept mute about this very damaging letter, believe everything and develop an attitude about about the victim. This kind of epistolary warfare has been going on and is still going on, we are just lucky to hear about this latest stinker. Shaw has already adequately defended himself but Victor referred to Shaw's "cronies", so I have to jump into the fray. I am going to tell the world what I know about Victor, so that people can understand why he wrote such a disgraceful letter.
Victor Sylver studied Agriculture at university but ended up stringing for the BBC after a jail sentence at the hellish Government Information Services.
No, you pretended that you knew Victor Sylver so well that you and him would share drinks at a watering hole in Freetown. Never, you knew that never happened. Victor Sylver did not start off by studying Agriculture before going into journalism. Victor Sylver was never a staff of the Government Information Service, known then as the GIS. Victor started off in 1971 with the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service as a Producer (Jnr) after his "A" Levels. Have you ever heard of a Journalism Education Course organised by the Extra Mural Department of Fourah Bay College with certificates awarded in 1973? Well, you may want to know, Victor Sylver was one of the recipients.
He is the perfect intellectual slave the BBC likes to recruit in Africa - somebody who can sacrifice THE TRUTH for a few miserable British pounds.
Victor Sylver would rather earn his "few miserable British pounds" for which you and your type were so green with envy about than engage in the blackmail of Lebanese, Indian and other business houses while on coasting missions. Everyone in journalistic circles, the world over, knows the integrity of the BBC when it comes to news reporting. If Victor Sylver "sacrificed the truth" because he did not cover up the excesses of the junta in 1997, then no apologies. He reported what was happening on the ground based on facts, solid facts. And you must know the role you played in the hunt for Victor Sylver because you and your benefactors knew that Victor knew the truth about the Mabaylla murders and believed that eliminating Victor Sylver was the best solution. Sorry, the Good Lord knows how to protect His children from the clutches of the Devil!!!!
Victor has always been close to the powers that be and he used to be very proud of his close association with ministers, directors, permanent secretaries and presidents.
Victor Sylver studied at the feet of masters of the art of journalism like Sam Metzger, the late Royston Wright with whom he worked in the SLBS Newsroom, the late Bankole Timothy, the late Mallyveen Johnson (GIS Director) and many others. He went through the mill and took in the basics of journalism. He did not pick it up from the gutters - and while studying was taught the basic tenets of good journalism - one of which is to be respectful to people in public life and so was accorded the privilege of meeting with all these people. These news makers knew that Victor Sylver handled interviews and other elements with the truth, never bending things to fit in with a hidden agenda. If Gibril Gbanabome Koroma states the above, there is nothing Victor Sylver can do about it. He earned their trust and respect. If these people say things to Victor Sylver that are confidential and not for the public domain, he lets it stay there. That is one basic element in building trust between the journalist and the public. As veteran journalist Sam Metzger told us, "You may get a scoop for betraying such a trust, but you will never again be trusted and that is the most damaging aspect of your life. You must be trusted by the public".
He was particularly very close to Kabbah and the SLPP. When the latter was overthrown in 1997, Victor took it as a personal affront, which gravely affected his reporting to the BBC.
That says it all. Now we know the origin of that so-called letter purported to have been written by "a frustrated reader". The same theme which would suggest that that material was manufactured by Expo Times in their support for the hunt for Victor Sylver because in that letter published by Expo Times, Victor Sylver was accused of not being a journalist, but a member of the SLPP. That statement, during junta times in 1997, was a death sentence!!!!
He never reported anything good about the junta, which angered a lot of people and the BBC lapped up anything he faxed or sent by telephone.
"He never reported anything good about the junta". This is the classic line and excuse all junta supporters used. Hilton Fyle used it on his FM radio while the hunt for Victor Sylver was on and in fact he first came out with it after Victor Sylver reported to the BBC an incident around the Ross Road Police Station in the east of the capital Freetown. A junta soldier had executed a civilian because he wanted to deprive the civilian of his 5-gallon petrol. Civilians in the area witnessed this and decided that the gunman must pay for this daylight robbery and murder. The man was eventually apprehended and shot by his own colleagues of the junta.
But he got into real trouble when he deliberately falsified a story on the ECOMOG bombing of the Mabayla slum in central Freetown. At that time everybody was glued to a radio and the slum dwellers heard Victor's report while their loved ones laid in pools of blood. With a loud cry of rage they went on the streets with stones and sticks looking for him.
You have now been exposed for what you represented during junta rule in 1997. You knew then that it was the junta which carried out the murders, but being in their camp, you helped to cover it up. Remember when the people of Mabaylla, fed up with the lies about ECOMOG being the murderers decided to use "GBOM" so they can "swear" those responsible for those murders? Let me refresh your memory. Soon after they had performed that "swear" ceremony, do you remember the circumstances under which one of the chief tormentors of the people died? He got involved in a somewhat freak accident along Savage Street in the Brookfields area and died with every bone in his body broken.
It had nothing to do with EXPO TIMES. WE ONLY REPORTED THE INCIDENT AS CORRESPONDENT OF REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES IN FREETOWN AT THE TIME. I EVEN INFORMED PARIS ABOUT IT AND WROTE A COMMENTARY IN EXPO TIMES CALLING ON THE PUBLIC TO STAY CALM. THE RECORDS ARE THERE.
Anyway, despite everything Victor is still our friend and brother at EXPO TIMES. I for one used to have a drink with him and we used to have lengthy discussions. I will tell Shaw to forgive him. But to be frank, Victor has really disappointed me. This is the kind of game small boys like David Tam Baryoh, who onced tried unsuccessfully to tarnish my name in Ghana, should play, not a man like Victor for whom I had some respect. For Victor to Nicodemously send a letter like that to the FORUM has exposed him as a veritable enemy of press freedom and free expression. The man still believes in unfree ways to express himself and damage others. But he went to the wrong people.
LONG LIVE FREEDOM FORUM!
Well, as you know your source of income based on lies and deceit folded up after 9/11 as the European Chapter closed. Fate has a way of catching up with evil.
Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, the truth, the stark truth that you have always tried to hide is now splashed in your face.
According to the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Sierra Leone, Bishop Joseph Christian Humper of the United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, the Mabaylla murders were carried out by the junta and blamed on ECOMOG with the fiendish aim of putting pressure on Nigeria to withdraw its troops from Sierra Leone.
It was their presence at Jui, 13 miles from the city centre in 1997 that saved thousands of unarmed civilians from what could have made events in Rwanda on a ratio scale look like a Sunday picnic.
So now tell us - let's read it on your online "newspaper".
Why did you cover up the Mabaylla incident?
How much were you paid?