Seaga Shaw's reaction
It was indeed the Freedom Forum European Centre Director, John Owen, who drew my attention to the contents of Victor Sylver's letter, copy of which had been forwarded to him by the Forum's African centre based in South Africa. I was shocked but far from surprised. This is because I knew, and I still know, deep down my heart that with all the encouragement I've been receiving from majority of Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad, as well as other well-wishers in my die-hard struggle to re-establish myself and my newspaper, there may still be the very few likes of Victor Sylver who may attempt to pull me down. And that is exactly the sum total of what Victor Sylver sought to achieve in that letter full of bile, jealousy and intellectual dishonesty. I'm however consoled by the fact Victor Sylver would never succeed in tarnishing the reputation I've been able to build for my self and my newspaper despite all odds.
When my colleagues at the Expo Times, Kofi and Osman, read the letter, they went ballistic and suggested that I seek legal action. But my friends at the Freedom advised against the idea of legal action for libel as the only winners will be the lawyers who will end up making a lot of money. They advised that I write him requesting permission to publish his letter in my newspaper along side my reaction as a way of provoking a public debate on the charges, all of which are totally baseless. My colleagues and I heeded the advice and settled for the latter.
The following day I sent Victor Sylver an e-mail requesting permission to publish his letter along side my reaction. But he didn't even have the courtesy to send me a reply let alone accept my request. After waiting for almost a week I sent him a reminder. But still no reply. I felt snubbed and disappointed but again far from surprised. Perhaps he was shocked to learn that his letter finally landed in my hands. I however warned him in the last message that if I don't hear from him, I will interpret his silence to mean consent and go ahead with the publication reminding him that after all he had already gone public by sending the letter out to one of my paper's potential funding organisations.
Since I'm a very busy man, editing and uploading the web site as well as co-ordinating the print version in Freetown on line, I will only attempt a brief, but to the point, reply to all the charges levied against my person and that of my newspaper. The rest I prefer to leave to readers and colleagues who were living witnesses one way or the other to some of the events and developments Victor Silver tried to recount in his letter.
I hope some of those who have time can join this discussion by sending letters to help bring out the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Got the drift? Ibrahim Seaga Shaw wanted a "debate" on a serious accusation based on facts. Yet he was asking for a "debate" on the kinds of discussion forums on the internet set up or "moderated" by another junta supporter, Babatunde Blyden's daughter, Sylvia who could be seen all over setting up one website after another in support of the junta. Yes indeed. It's like convicted Rwandan journalist Hassan Ngeze asking for such a public debate on his own website to try him!!!
Just as I was planning to write my reaction I received a readers' letter on Sunday March 25 from a colleague, Joseph Sherman, former editor of Sierra Leone's Foot Prints Newspaper, now based in Washington. He was reacting to news that Paul Kamara, of the so-called For Di People newspaper, attacked my newspaper on it's second coming on the news-stands in Sierra Leone calling on the authorities to ban it for allegedly supporting the former AFRC junta. The timing of Sherman's letter was no less appropriate. At least this letter went at great lengths in vindicating me from some of the baseless charges made by Victor Silver.
Joseph Sherman's letter has been left out for every obvious reasons. He could well have got the message by now.
I was particularly consoled by Sherman when he wrote in that letter published bellow where he said: `In spite of the vulnerability of your staff especially from the Nigerian occupational army, EXPO TIMES indeed braved the storm by exposing the schemes of both the Nigerian army and the rebels. This statement from a neutral colleague flies in the face of the charge made by Victor that I was in Sierra Leone consenting the human right abuses of the rebel junta and never carried a line in my newspaper about such abuses. I'm sure this should be enough to leave him (Victor) scurrying for cover. And Sherman was reacting to Paul Kamara, and not Victor.
But it is not difficult to see how both of them are partners in both pro-government journalism and pull-him-down (PHD) syndrome. The truth of the matter is when Seaga Shaw and his colleagues were busy exposing the atrocities committed by both the junta rebels and the Nigerian led ECOMOG troops, as well as pro-Kabbah militias, Victor Sylver was telling the world in his despatches to the BBC Focus on Africa that all the atrocities against innocent civilians in Sierra Leone during the period under review were committed by the rebel junta soldiers. For Victor Silver, the atrocities committed by ECOMOG troops against civilians in broad daylight were not human right abuses because they sought to restore the so-called democratically elected government.
As every journalist and citizen on the ground knows, Seaga Shaw's Expo Times newspaper was one of several known as junta news outlets and never criticised the junta for its crackdown on journalists who wrote against the murderers. In fact Seaga Shaw used his connections with the junta to intimidate and harass journalists who had been labelled "pro-democrats". Kindly click this link to see what IFEX, the organisation responsible for free expression published about events in 1997. Kindly note also that Victor Sylver was complaining about events that he witnessed in 1997 before he was forced to flee for his life in early September 1997. Victor went underground and subsequently escaped in October 1997 when the junta was still in power. He never reported from Sierra Leone for the BBC after that. We are talking about 1997. Sorious Samura's documentary was on events in 1999!!!!!!
Victor was among those few journalists who helped the western media to misinform the world that all the atrocities committed in Sierra Leone were the handiwork of rebels. Thanks to the Sorious Samoura CRY FREETOWN award winning footage, which at least helped to change that perception a little by telling the world that, after all, both sides of the conflict committed violations. At least it's on record that a journalist was shot to death in broad aye light by an ECOMOG soldier acting under the advice of a local militia was merely trying to settle old scores with the journalist.
Again, using events to confuse with half truths and time manipulation. The Sorious documentary was on the 1999 invasion of Freetown by junta forces and what happened during that murderous attempt by the junta to capture Freetown resulting in at least 5,000 civilian deaths. What Victor Sylver is writing about relate to events well before that. It was 2 years earlier in 1997 when the junta was in power. There is no need to confuse and deceive. Both Seaga Shaw and Victor Sylver were not in Freetown, Sierra Leone for the events of 1999 documented by Sorious. The accusations relate to when the Johnny Paul AFRC/RUF junta was in power in 1997!!!
I thought Victor could have been bold enough to include in his letter what finally forced him into exile during the AFRC junta rule. I'm sure he would not want the Freedom Forum and others to know that he was hounded by angry civilians who felt betrayed and frustrated over his report to the world that some 20 coffins, containing people (including their relatives) killed by missiles thrown from ECOMOG's base in Lungi and displayed at the National Stadium, had no corpses in them but stones.
The BBC as well as all who were on the ground that Thursday morning after the Mabaylla murders can confirm that no such report was sent by Victor Sylver. Victor was in hiding after he sent the first report for the BBC Focus on Africa 1st edition in which he mentioned that he had seen with his own eyes, two bodies in an omolankay cart taken to the Connaught Hospital mortuary. He even quoted junta spokesman Alieu Kamara who told him that 50 people had been killed. After that report, Victor Sylver went into hiding as junta supporters went on a manhunt after he was marked for death. So how could Seaga Shaw write about Victor Sylver reporting that those coffins were full of stones? That's Seaga Shaw, junta supporter for you.
Those civilians would find it difficult to forgive Victor Sylver for been so heartless as to allow his sentiments to come into naked play into his career as a journalist whose duty it's to tell it as it is and not as he wants it even when it's a big terrible lie.
Of course, everyone on the ground knew at the time that those killings were carried out by the junta and the Mabaylla residents can tell you of the level of intimidation and fear under which they lived after this event. Anyone who dared to whisper that they saw uniformed men during those fateful hours, was gunned down. But there are survivors who can tell things as they occurred. Indeed, the Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Bishop Joseph Christian Humper has also publicly stated that the Mabaylla attacks were carried out by the junta because they wanted the international community to put pressure on Nigeria to remove its troops from Sierra Leone!!!!! And you know what that could have meant to civilians and all those opposed to the junta. Let Seaga Shaw deny this.
This brings me to Victor's other charge that I carried a readers' letter attacking him as he was chased out of the country.
I remember publishing a letter from one frustrated civilian whose relative was among those killed by the Nigerian bombs. The reader merely vented his anger at Victor in the letter. I published that letter in keeping with my paper's policy of allowing members of the public to vent out their feelings in the LETTERS column on matters affecting their lives in the spirit of free speech and there was absolutely no malice intended against the person of Victor Sylver, who in any case had, and still has, the right of reply.
As Editor, it was Seaga Shaw's duty to decide what letters get published in his newspaper. He carries the editorial responsibility of whatever is carried in that newspaper. And part of his editorial responsibility is to weigh the pros and cons of allowing such a letter to be published at a time when the junta was on the manhunt for Victor Sylver. By publishing that so-called letter from "one frustrated civilian", he was clearly sending a message to the junta that he was with them in their search to get rid of Victor Sylver. Seaga Shaw would never have published any such letter if it had been attacking the junta for its crackdown on journalists or the massive human rights abuses visited upon a civilian population that was held hostage by the junta.
Coming to the issue of the Mercedes Benz, I think Victor has only succeeded in exposing himself as very a naïve and envious colleague. He insinuated that I acquired my Mercedes Benz illegally although he did not supply specifics. He also failed to mention that I had changed two cars before acquiring the Benz car he alluded to in his letter.
I first had a Datsun car and later a flashy Toyota Camry sport car, which in actual fact was among many cars commandeered by junta rebels in the wake of the notorious AFRC coup. I never set eyes on it again.
A month later I had cause to buy a used Mercedes Benz car from one Used Car Dealer at Goderich Street in Freetown called Amadu Bah. When the Pro-government militia radio 98.1 and the so-called For Di People attacked me for driving an allegedly commandeered car, I had cause to publish to all documents pertaining to the purchase of the car, including custom and port clearances to clear my name.
Nice attempt, but extremely flawed
because of deliberate inaccuracies and the attempt to continue playing the
symphony of deceit. Anyone in Freetown at the time of the junta take-over knew
that apart from its brutality and human rights abuses, the AFRC and the RUF were
known for looting. Favourite targets included vehicles and the property of
residents, not only in Freetown, but throughout the country. The car dealer
along Goderich Street, as everyone knows was quite popular and he would have his
"Belgium" cars parked on either side of the road, as on-going construction of
the drainages by that Senegalese company was still on. That was before the May
25, 1997 coup. Everyone, except perhaps Seaga Shaw and his cohort, knew that
such car sale outlets were comprehensively looted. Not one road-worthy vehicle
was spared. Ask Goderich Street residents and they will confirm.
I've sent for the original copy of that paper which I intend to scan and publish in due cause.
Yes, we are still waiting for that original copy to be scanned and published. And while scanning that "original" document, please do not forget the little matter of another receipt that you produced purporting that a certain computer in your possession was bought in Nigeria. Kindly do not forget also what emerged during investigations by the Criminal Investigations Department, CID, after they contacted Nigeria through the international police network, INTERPOL. Or have you forgotten how you got the name "Tech" while at Fourah Bay College for your first Certificate course?
I'm sure Sylver was envious to see a young man like Seaga Shaw driving flashy cars including the much talked about Benz when he couldn't even lay claim to a motor bike not to talk of owning or driving a car with all his many years as a BBC stringer.
Yes indeed Victor Sylver would rather remain the proud non-owner of a car or bicycle than use his profession to blackmail traders and businessmen in order to acquire such. Victor Sylver would rather walk the streets of Freetown while doing his job than engage in coasting along the Lebanese and other business districts in the country. And do not forget that Victor Sylver as BBC stringer then had the resources to get these things several times over, but is not and never will walk the path of the envious. Contentment with his lot has always been one of Victor Sylver's guiding principles.
When the junta was forcefully removed and the Kabbah Government returned, a campaign of revenge on the part of pro-government militias and fanatics became the norm. And so all those accused of collaborating with the junta were targeted.
After fleeing the situation, the government militias seized my Mercedes car. But after investigating how I acquired the car for almost a year, the police detectives released the car to my younger brother in Freetown.
The police records are there for every one interested to go and see. This was enough to lay to rest the issue of that car.The outcome of the police investigation no doubt vindicated me that I indeed acquired the car genuinely out of my sweat as a successful publisher and editor.
But no the few Victor Sylvers and the Paul Kamaras would not allow the Benz issue to rest even if Scotland Yard is invited to establish the truth. And for Silver to charge that I was bent on fingering colleagues because I was not satisfied with my work as I journalist and as such was out to seek favours from the Junta borders on intellectual dishonesty.
Victor ought to wake up and live to the reality that my paper, which won two best newspaper awards in a row in 1996 and 1997, was one of the most, if not the most successful, newspapers in the country in both it's marketability and acceptability. I was happy as a Proprietor/Editor and therefore did not see myself currying favours from any political class, be it a junta or a so-called democratic government.
May be Victor and Paul were currying favours from the then exiled Kabbah government. To conclude I would like to remind Victor Sylver that my editorial stance on the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Sierra Leone remain unchanged. I'm also happy to announce that this is the popular thinking of a majority of Sierra Leoneans.
Yes, everyone was interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict. True. But should this involve the massive human rights violations that were visited on the civilian population? There is enough documentation to show the level of brutality in the year under review - to quote Seaga Shaw, which is 1997 - the year Victor Sylver was forced to flee from the clutches of the junta.
I'm still determined to run my newspaper as an independent voice of the voiceless masses who rely on us to help in the process of empowering and liberating them, to quote Sylver, from the shackles of repressive regimes, of which the so called democratically elected Kabbah government is no exception.
As I write this piece, a state of Emergency regulation, a recipe for dictatorship, is still in force in Sierra Leone and the government has banned public discussion on the political future of the country. Just the other day militias apparently acting on behalf of the government threatened to kill my paper's Sierra Leone Bureau editor, Osman Foday Koroma for working for Expo Times. For Paul and Victor that is the democracy worth shedding blood for.
I will stop here for now and allow others to join the discussion.
Sorry, there are no more others to join you. Such matters are not verified by your types using those internet discussion forums. The use of so many false names on those forums is now known to many Sierra Leonean internet users. They now know how you and your type manipulated the internet to further your support for the junta.
Sylvia Blyden has been exposed as a junta sympathiser using her knowledge of the art of web designs to further the interests of the junta.
Your massive cover-up and deception to gain the sympathy of some international media outlets is being taken to pieces as they truly discover your role during those trying times of 1997. You never told them of that incident with David Tam Bayoh, nor the letter you published against Victor Sylver in 1997 when he was being hunted by the junta.
You have to stand and face what you did in support of your friends and benefactors in the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil. There is no running away from what you did, especially in fingering colleagues who were opposed to the atrocities unleashed upon the unarmed and defenceless population in 1997!!!!!
Remember Elfriede Rinkel 84, a US citizen hid her past but was eventually found out and stripped of US citizenship, Guenter Grass could not bear his guilt over his role during the Second World War and eventually confessed that he served in Hitler's SS forces.
Seaga Shaw, you Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, Babatunde's daughter, Sylvia Blyden and all of your type will one day have to answer for your continued denial of what you did in furthering the cause of the murderous junta led by Johnny Paul Koroma.
History has time on its side.