All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

February 5, 2009

S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 7 No 2

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report


Umaru Fofanah, one of the BBC's men on the spot who reports from Sierra Leone is not a happy man over an issue and the Sierra Herald will not be surprised if he is an angry man too.The BBC's Umaru Fofanah's concern must be taken seriously

He has written a letter to the country's media watchdog, the Independent Media Commission, the IMC in which he has, in no uncertain terms expressed his displeasure with the ruling APC party radio.

The radio is alleged to have reacted to a report filed by the BBC correspondent on a press conference given by the self-same government officials after a letter purported to have been written by a so-called "Dream Team" was made public.

It would seem that the APC radio was not that pleased with the journalist's reporting of the event and launched an attack against the journalist. This excerpt from his letter should be viewed with concern in a country that is still struggling with getting back on its feet after years of war. This as well as the practice of democracy and good governance - the same pathway that allowed the then opposition APC party to wrest power from the ruling SLPP in the 2007 polls.

"...the station alleged that because I filed a report for the BBC on the same day about an open letter written to President Ernest Bai Koroma by a group of apparently disgruntled soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, I therefore had a hand in the writing of the said letter..."

The Sierra Herald views such interpretations to fulfil a political agenda with disdain and would call for the outright condemnation of the mouthpiece of that thing which passes for a government in Sierra Leone.

This action by the APC radio is bound to remind survivors of the AFRC/RUF jackboot reign of terror from May 29, 1997 to February 1998 of how press freedom was suppressed in a country where citizens became hostages in their own God-given country.

That was time when the truth became a crime and any public utterance or correspondence was interpreted to suit the blood-letting junta operatives as an excuse to commit murder, rape and any human rights abuses that they could think of. It was a time then when listening to the 98.1 Democracy FM station which was linked to the ousted Kabbah government was considered a crime serious enough to warrant extrajudicial killings. As was witnessed in the case of that poor lady in Kanikay who dared to utter the words "di Pa tork fine" when ousted President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's voice was heard for the first time after the May 29, 1997 coup.

This action by the APC radio must be brought to the attention of all the representatives of democratic institutions and countries represented in Sierra Leone to show just how party followers can twist statements to fit and justify the murder and vilification of perceived opponents.

Consider the case of former BBC reporter Victor Sylver. He reported on an attack on Mabaylla in the east of the capital that claimed at least thirty lives. His report quoted the then AFRC spokesman Allieu Kamara (now "Attitudinal Change" parrot") and the figure he gave at the time  as well as buttressing deaths by saying that he had seen two bodies in an omolankay (open man-drawn wooden cart).

For reasons best known to the junta operatives including newspapers like Ibrahim Seaga Shaw's Expo Times, this story was spun out of control and ended by saying that Victor had reported that only two persons were killed!!!

Former BBC West Africa correspondent gave these details in an interview broadcast on Focus on Africa when Victor went into hiding after his first report on that day. She was interviewed by Chris Bickerton.

Even after he had been exposed for what he had done to colleagues during junta rule and now in the UK enjoying the benefits of democracy and good governance, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw confirmed that he was a part of the junta's media tinkering group when he wrote in his online outlet that Victor had in fact said more than that.

That Victor had actually reported on the BBC that the coffins carrying the bodies of victims did not contain any human remains, but that they were full of stones!!!!

And this at a time when Victor was in hiding and had stopped reporting for the BBC after the first edition of Focus on Africa for that day!!!!

Such is the evil tactics of his kind that the Independent Media Commission is urged to take urgent action to stop such wicked broadcasts by the APC radio or any other such outlets filling the airwaves in Sierra Leone.

This matter has to be given urgent attention and the culprits brought to book given the fact that in a country where rumours are likely to become "facts" with party operatives likely to take the law into their own hands, that everything be done to protect the lives of journalists.

Journalists must be allowed to carry out their duties freely and without any fear from anyone. Be it a political party, a government or opposition operative or anyone.

The rule of law must be maintained and observed in Sierra Leone.

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©Sierra Herald 2002