Thursday, June 13, 2013

Government Threatens Journalists in Sierra Leone

Koroma and his Special Assistant
One of the loudest bragging points of the All Peoples Congress Party,  the ruling party in Sierra Leone has been that since the election of President Ernest Bai Koroma, no journalist has been imprisoned in the country. Paul Kamara the country's current Sports Minister was a journalist who was harassed and jailed by several past administrations and has come to symbolize President Koroma's tolerance for and cozy relationship with journalists.

Upon assumption of the Presidency, Ernest Koroma created the position of press attaches in many Sierra Leone diplomatic missions abroad and sent journalists loyal to his many years of struggle, first to attain the leadership of his party, and ultimately the presidency of the small diamond rich West African country of approximately 6 million people. The creation of the position of foreign press attaches was a deft political move by President Koroma, as he was able to send some journalists that would have been problematic in the future out of the country on diplomatic assignments, thereby effectively making them spokespersons for the government and making them toe the official government line, muzzling them in the process. The press Attache positions also ensured that a lot of the remaining journalists in the country soon started glorifying the president all in a bid to be sent on some diplomatic mission in the future.
Needs a Makeover

The recent scandal in Washington involving Sierra Leone's Ambassador making promises to online journalists for propaganda stories in return for political appointments, that included the Ambassador Stevens, the whistle-blower Joseph Sherman, Kabbs Kanu and the press attache Pasco Temple all point to the murky relationship between the Koroma presidency, money and propaganda in Sierra Leone.

After the election of Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007, Sylvia O. Blyden, the current Special Executive Assistant to the President, a position she has given the designation SEA, was a thorn in the flesh of President Koroma, detailing his extra marital affairs and cataloging corruption and influence peddling in his young presidency. APC operatives loathed Blyden who was then accused of being in cahoots with the opposition to undermine the Koroma presidency. Mohamed Sankoh a mass communication graduate with a fanatical devotion to president Koroma coined the term "Koromaism" to refer to devotion to the president and his agenda. Sylvia then wrote that " Koromaism includes the art of discussing the colour of underwear that male Sierra Leonean politicians wear; all such gutter materials published in a bid to promote President Koroma’s supposed successes. This is what Koromaism represents so far: The production of FILTH. Pathetic!

After the Aljazeera timber scandal broke, the revelation was a major embarrassment for the government, Sylvia Blyden whose journalistic fortunes had been on the wane saw an opening and quickly stepped in to defend the government and condemn and damn Sorious Samoura, the journalist who was behind the Aljazeera report on official bribery and illegal logging in Sierra Leone.

The Aljazeera scandal brought Sylvia closer to the Koroma presidency, after several months of her trying to shed her pro-opposition past. Initially, many members of the APC were skeptical of Blyden's loyalty, but became convinced about her about face when she aggressively went after opposition presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio during the 2012 elections in the country.
What's Up with the Blue

Since becoming Special Assistant to the President, Sylvia's main target has been journalists she disagreed with during her days as Awareness Times official editor, a function she now performs without naming herself. Her other targets are journalists who are not toeing the official government line. Everyday in Awareness Times or the social media Sylvia is using her newly minted position to threaten those she considers as being pro-opposition of jail time and endless court proceedings.

For the past two weeks in Sierra Leone the President's Special Assistant to Facebook has been using social media and her Awareness Times rag to warn journalists of being dragged to court on criminal and seditious libel charges. So far it has been just noise as usual from a personality who constantly craves attention, as none of the journalists she is threatening seem to take her seriously. Most ordinary people believe that this same woman who was the most vociferous critic of Ernest Koroma and now wants everybody to know that she is his staunchest defender still has to convince the world that this glaring hypocrisy is not just a charade.

The days of dark Africa when you could just drag journalists to court on trumped up charges and throw them in jail are a thing of the past in Sierra Leone, otherwise Sylvia herself would have been locked up long ago. Blyden is failing to realize is that the only way the Sierra Leone government under her influence can muzzle the press or the freedom of information is to effectively shut down the Internet or at most cut Internet service to Sierra Leone like Assad has done in Syria. Otherwise, she is just wasting her time and the Sierra Leone taxpayers money which is used to pay her. As long as cellphones exist and the social media grows in influence, Sylvia herself knows that she is fighting a losing battle.

My suggestion to the Special Assistant is that instead of focusing on journalists, more attention should be urgently given to that blue dress. We are tired of seeing blue. Now, that is sedition and libel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't care about her. She is a mess.