Sylvia Blyden writes to SLBC

Published on August 13, 2010 by Cocorioko News   ·   5 Comments
Sylvia-Blyden

Two days ago,  COCORIOKO  received the following letter for publication from the Publisher of AWARENESS TIMES , Madam Sylvia Blyden . It concerns a complaint against the newly-established Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation.  Since the issues raised in the letter are of grave national concern, we have decided to publish the letter verbatim in the interest of press freedom and fairness to all parties.  We interpret that the reason that Dr.Blyden sent us the articles was for publication. We will do our best to be fair. This also means that COCORIOKO , in exercise of such fairness, will publish all rebuttals to this letter from Miss Blyden  by government and supporters of President Koroma who believe that the President is not a dictator at all as claimed by the Publisher.   

HERE IS DR. BLYDEN’S LETTER SENT TO COCORIOKO AND OTHER NEWS OUTLETS FOR PUBLICATION :

AN OBSERVATION ABOUT A WORRYING DEVELOPMENT OF SUSPECTED NEFARIOUS STATE INTERFERENCE IN THE OPERATIONS OF THE NEWLY LAUNCHED INDEPENDENT PUBLIC BROADCASTER IN SIERRA LEONE.

 TO: (1) The Chairman & Members, Board of Trustees

Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation

New Englandville, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

TO: (2) Acting Director General & Management Team

Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation

New Englandville, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Wednesday August 11th 2010.

I, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Social & Political Commentator in Sierra Leone, today wish to express my deep concern over a worrying development that I wish to bring to the attention of the Public in general and more specifically to the attention of the Trustees and Management of the newly launched Independent Public Broadcaster, SLBC, and from whom I am demanding a Public Explanation, and possibly an apology, over the following developments.

1. On Saturday July 31st 2010, I participated in the popular Live Radio and TV Broadcast Programme named Inside the Media which commences from 10:00am in the morning until 11:00am with a repeat broadcast usually run the next day Sunday at 19:00GMT in the evening.

2. As usual, I was quite vocal in articulating my points especially when it came to the issue of the re-appointment of Elections Boss, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, by President Ernest Koroma.

3. I used my oratorical skills and knowledge of the Constitution to put across to the Public the fact that whilst President Koroma could hire and fire Cabinet Ministers as and when he felt like doing so, the Constitution limited his actions when it came to Electoral Commissioners by outlining a procedure for them to be hired and fired which was all-encompassing of all political actors in contemporary times.

4. I described to the listening Nation that President Koroma’s repeat actions of over-riding the constitutional provisions and riding roughshod over the expressed dissatisfaction of his political opponents, was a disgrace to our democratic culture and a sure sign that our President was behaving like a dictator.

5. I expressed the serious concern that our 2012 Elections are already tainted even before they had been run because a significant portion of the country was kicking against the woman who had been appointed by President Koroma to conduct and referee the 2012 elections. These significant section of the citizenry made up of opposition members simply did not trust Dr. Christiana Thorpe to referee an election. Hence, I opined that the 2012 Elections will not be seen to be conducted on a level Playing Field which I feared could lead to unconscionable consequences should the Elections Results be announced under circumstances deemed questionable by the Opposition

I must have struck a thought-provoking, serious note in the socio-political sphere in Sierra Leone because by the time the Programme ended, I had received dozens of congratulatory text messages and I continued to receive phone calls from excited Sierra Leoneans located all over this country expressing deep appreciation for my words spoken over the Live Broadcast.

I decided to listen to myself speak during the expected Repeat Broadcast on Sunday August 1st 2010 at 19:00GMT as was the usual practice with this particular Programme, over the past several years. To my utmost shock and surprise, not only was the SLBC Radio Station placed off the air and access to its airwaves made unavailable throughout the entire Nation, at the expected Repeat Broadcast of 19:00GMT but when it eventually came back on air, almost half an hour later at 19:30GMT, it was to play music with no explanation stated for why it had been off in the first place. I attempted to reach several SLBC Staff but no-one was picking up their telephones.

I decided to conduct investigations into this issue and here are my shocking Findings:

1. Whilst I had been Live over the Air educating the Public about the DICTATORIAL manner in which President Koroma was behaving with respect to the hiring and firing of Electoral Commissioners, I am now informed that the SLBC Management received an urgent Phone Call from the Office of the President at State House, demanding that I be interrupted so that State House could interject comments into the   LIVE Inside the Media Programme.

2. The SLBC Management REFUSED to interrupt our Live Programme following which ‘State House’ made a Phone Call to the residence of Professor Septimus Kaikai, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees demanding that Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s comments over the air to the Nation via SLBC, should be interrupted so someone at State House could make an address to the Nation on the issues being raised by my humble self.

3. Professor Septimus Kaikai is reported to have then expressed by telephone, to the SLBC Management, that the Office of the President be allowed to interrupt the Live Programme and make an unprecedented rejoinder to what I was saying to the Public on the issue.

4. However, by this time, the Programme had been virtually concluded and no interruption was allowed of our Live Broadcast by the SLBC Management on duty.

5. One gentleman working for the SLBC whom has simply been identified to me as ‘Mr. Saio’ is reported to have received instructions from someone urging him to destroy the recording of our Live Programme so it could NOT be aired again the next day, Sunday at 19:00GMT.

6. Indeed, the Programme was NOT rebroadcast on Sunday and to date, not a single word of Explanation or Apology to the Public has been rendered on the issue. All I have heard is that a ‘technical glitch’ occurred. But why did it occur and how do we make sure it never occurs again? And when such a ‘glitch’ occurs, is the Public not owed an Apology?

7. To date, the Public has been treated with Contempt by not having the SLBC apologising or explaining to members of the Public why the Broadcaster, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME IN YEARS OF AIRING SUCH A SATURDAY PROGRAMME, suddenly found itself unable to air a popularly expected Repeat Broadcast of the Saturday Programme on the next day, Sunday.

Needless to say, the above developments are making a mockery of the much touted ‘independence’ of the newly launched Sierra Leone Public Broadcaster because if the Office of the President can just pick up the phone and order for Sylvia Blyden’s words over the air to be interrupted, then where lies the independence? To make matters even worse, here we are with the Recording of the Programme now being NOWHERE to be found! The Recording has simply disappeared into thin air with no-one issuing an Apology to the Public over this anomaly.

The Question that must surely be now asked is whether we really deserve to make the claim that Sierra Leone is now running a Public Broadcaster in the form of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation that Mr. Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General recently came here to launch so that a multiplicity of voiced opinions could be aired independent of State interference.

On that note and in anticipation that the Board of Trustees and the Management of the SLBC will have an answer to this aforementioned Question of whether we really have an INDEPENDENT PUBLIC-OWNED BROADCASTER, I intend to now end this correspondence whilst I await, with great anticipation, for answers from the SLBC which I trust will be speedily and publicly rendered.

I have taken the opportunity to make this a Public Letter by publishing it in the local press with the Intent for it to be widely circulated. Much credit has been given to the people of this country over our SLBC Public Broadcaster and any threats to SLBC’s independence must be given the widest possible coverage. I have also copied Mr. Michael Schulenburg, the Executive Representative of Mr. Ban Ki Moon in Sierra Leone so he could be kept properly informed of these developments whilst his team prepares the next Report on Sierra Leone by the U.N. Secretary General to the United Nations Security Council on various issues which would surely include the “independence” of the   ‘Independent SLBC Public Broadcaster’.

In anticipation, I remain, Yours Faithfully,

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (Dr.)

CC: Secretary to H.E. the President

CC: ERSG Michael Schulenburg/United Nations
TODAY AUGUST 13, 2010 COCORIOKO FURTHER RECEIVED TWO LETTERS FROM DR. BLYDEN, ONE A RESPONSE TO HER LETTER FROM THE ACTING DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE SLBC, MR. PATRICK TARAWALLIE AND THE OTHER HER OWN RESPONSE TO THAT LETTER.THEY ARE PRESENTED BELOW.

 THE SLBC RESPONDS TO SYLVIA BLYDEN’S LETTER

“Dear Madam (Blyden)

SUBJECT: AN OBSERVATION ABOUT A WORRYING DEVELOPMENT OF SUSPECTED NEFARIOUS STATE INTERFERENCE IN THE OPERATIONS OF THE NEWLY LAUNCHED INDEPENDENT PUBLIC BROADCASTER IN SIERRA LEONE

 This will acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 11th August 2010.

 I wish to inform you and the citizen of this country that nobody from the State House either called me or the Chairman of the Board of Trustees to complain about the content of the referenced programme.  As an independent public broadcaster, our mandate calls for impartiality and as a result, both the Board of Trustees and Management are sensitive to the need for fairness.

 The referenced programme that you participated in was not rebroadcast on Sunday August 1st, 2010 because of technical problems.  It is a problem that most broadcast organizations experience every now and then.

Finally, our investigations have confirmed that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees did not call anybody at the SLBC broadcasting house with instructions not to rebroadcast the programme that you participated in.

 We do apologize to our numerous listeners across the country for not rebroadcasting that programme.

 (Sgd) Patrick Tarawalli

Ag. Director-General, SLBC”

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
17 Garrison Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone

TO: Mr. Patrick Tarawalli
Acting Director General,
Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation
New Englandville, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Friday August 13th 2010.

Dear Sir,

RE: AN OBSERVATION ABOUT A WORRYING DEVELOPMENT OF SUSPECTED NEFARIOUS STATE INTERFERENCE IN THE OPERATIONS OF THE NEWLY LAUNCHED INDEPENDENT PUBLIC BROADCASTER IN SIERRA LEONE.

I am in receipt of your Letter dated Thursday August 12th 2010 on the above topic which was a response to mine of Wednesday August 11th 2010. I must say I am rather bemused by your Letter.

Firstly, your belated Public Apology for not rebroadcasting the July 31st 2010 Programme in which I participated, is here noted but surely you recall that aside the United Nation’s Peace Building Fund’s huge cash input into SLBC this year, an additional US$2,000,000 (TWO MILLION DOLLARS) of Citizens’ money was announced by Information Minister, Hon. I.B. Kargbo, to have been spent by Government this year to purchase broadcasting equipment for SLBC. So, your rather glib reason of “technical problems…that most broadcasting organisations experience every now and then” is most unacceptable! If after spending 2 million dollars Plus U.N. funding, we cannot get a reasonable technical explanation as to why that July 31st 2010 Programme was unprecedentedly not re-broadcasted, then Citizens are being short-changed!!! Sir, did we get value for our US$2,000,000???

Secondly, you seem to be under an illusion about possessing powers you were not granted by the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation Act No. 1 of 2010. Please be educated that you, as Director-General of SLBC, although an ex-officio board secretary, have no powers to take it upon yourself to speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the SLBC. Rather, PART IV, Section 13.(3) of the Act clearly delineates and limits your functions. Whilst Section 13.(3)(d) grants the Board the powers to assign you other responsibilities, I am 100% certain that neither the Chairman, Professor Septimus Kaikai nor the Board has granted you permission to speak on their behalf in this particular matter I have raised in writing specifically for the attention of the Board as an entity.

I am thus certain because the contents of your assertions, purportedly on behalf of Professor Septimus Kaikai, are woefully misinformed. So clearly, the esteemed Professor could not have been the source of your erroneous assertion that no-one from State House called up the SLBC.

You see, last Saturday (August 7th 2010), at precisely 15:10GMT, using my Zain phone with voice-recording capacity, I called up Professor Septimus Kaikai on his Zain phone line and spoke to him for a grand total of 6 minutes and 16 seconds. The thrust of my call was to put my initial findings to him that my sources had revealed to me that after the Management team of SLBC had refused to allow someone from State House to interrupt me Live over the air, Professor Kaikai was telephoned at his home and he had given a go-ahead for the programme to be interrupted.

The good professor, being a man of “high personal probity”, as called for in Part II, Section 3(2) of the SLBC Act, did not attempt to mislead me by saying no-one contacted him which you have unabashedly and most unfortunately now done. Instead of playing word games with me, Prof. Septimus Kaikai confirmed the information I relayed back to him but then he explained that his intentions had been to allow State House to be given a chance to have their own side aired as against my own position on the issue of the appointment by President Koroma of Dr. Christiana Thorpe.

Professor Kaikai stated to me that he gave the go-ahead for the interruption in what he believed to have been in the interest of fairness to State House. Professor Kaikai explained to me last Saturday that on his insistence for State House to be given a chance to interrupt and counter my words, he was told by the SLBC Team on duty that it was, “a programme of journalists” discussing issues which programme contents was usually not to be interrupted.

I listened keenly to his explanation and then I informed Prof. Kaikai that I was not satisfied with the situation and that I would be writing to complain to both the Management and the Board about the situation. He responded that he would be on standby for my Letter of Complaint. I assume he has now received the Letter and the Board would deliberate on it and as the Trustees for the Public, will give this topical public matter, the urgent seriousness it deserves.

In light of this above information, you will agree with me that in the process of you usurping the anticipated response from the Chairman and Members of the SLBC Board of Trustees, you have seriously misinformed the Public that no call came in from State House!!! If, you as an individual did not receive a call from State House, does it mean that no other member of your Management Team received such a call for State House to interrupt my words? Sir, surely you do not mean to exhibit to the Public that you are incapable of knowing what happens within your Management team because I am hereby assuring you that just as was confirmed to me by the Chairman of your Board over the phone last Saturday, a certain member of your Management Team on duty that Saturday July 31st 2010 did receive a call from State House. Please go back and exercise your duties properly to find out more on this issue.

Finally but very importantly, I dont understand where you got the perception that I said it was Chairman of SLBC Board who instructed for the Programme not to be re-broadcasted. I assume you are comfortable in your comprehension of written English and so I respectfully urge you to please go back and read my initial Letter addressed to the Board and Management of the SLBC and you will realise that you owe me yet another apology; this time, not for heading an SLBC that could not rebroadcast my words but for expressing such a misunderstanding of my stated words.

Meanwhile, given your own woefully inadequate response on behalf of SLBC’s Management, I and a significant section of the Public now eagerly await the official response from the Board of Trustees of SLBC to the issues posed. We want more specifics on the ‘TECHNICAL PROBLEMS’ affecting U.N. Peace Building Fund’s financed Equipment backed by an additional Government purchased Brand New Two Million Dollars Broadcasting Equipment. We urgently need this information so as to reassure us & allay our doubts over the independence of SLBC viz-a-viz suspected State House interference.

Yours Faithfully,

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (Dr.)

CC: Chairman & Board Members of SLBC
CC: Secretary to H.E. the President.
CC: ERSG Michael Schulenburg/United Nations.

© 2010, Cocorioko Newspaper. All rights reserved. – For the Latest News on Sierra leone

Readers Comments (5)
  1. As a journalist, I very much support press freedom in Sierra Leone, and will do all in my powers to suppress usurp of press freedom coming from all levels. What however baffles me is the fact that you are complaining bitterly about a program that was already aired at SLBC without interruption in which you freely expressed your opinion without reprisals. You are complaining because they did not rebroadcast the program, and because you heard that the program was to have been interrupted based on a call from State House. This really seems trivial to me. What worries me most is your assertion that because Dr. Thorpe was re-appointed chairlady for the elections commissions, there will not be free and fair elections in Sierra Leone. Based on your reasoning, the last elections were not free and fair because Dr. Thorpe was appointed by the SLPP Tejan Kabah. Without doubt, Dr. Thorpe conducted the most transparent and fair elections ever held in Sierra Leone and I bet she is going to preside over another free and fair elections in the next round.
    Please dear, I know you to be a patriotic sierra Leonean and inciting our people about elections that are almost two years away is not the way to build Sierra Leone. People already heard the program in its entirety without interruption, and that should suffice. If the government had interrupted your broadcast, arrested you and threw you in jail as happened often in other parts of the world, I would have been with you. But I really wish you will put this issue to rest and continue your work.

  2. Bambay Lans Kamara says:

    Indeed, Sierra Leone is enrooting to realizing her potentials as a nation that was once referred to as the Athens of Africa. A classification that means a lot and we are obliged to make this name meaningful and authentic. What is classical about Athens?
    According to Wikipedia, “Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum,[8][9] it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy,[10][11] largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.[12

    Knowing the History of African politics and seeing this development between the Government and Dr. Blyden, where a private citizen can air his or her views and get an explanation to whatever is misconstrued or not, instead of her getting imprisonment, no questions asked, is a remarkable progress towards change, hence the actualization of democracy, the Rule of Law, press freedom, free speech and pluralism.

    If nothing else, all Sierra Leoneans should be proud and hopeful that the propelling force toward a country’s progress, democracy, our democracy especially, with this development, is well on the way to success, proving right the belief that we are the Athens of West Africa. It is fair then to give credence where it is due. Fair to say that we have achieved a milestone, with this exercise between the government and Dr. Blyden serving as a proof to that effect because in most African history this could never have been possible without fatal consequences. But there is room for improvement.

    Hence, I would encourage Dr. Blyden to continue her exercise of free speech in the verge to making our nation realize her potentials and enjoy the exercise of free speech. This goes for any Sierra Leonean to speak their minds on politics and every socio-economic affair of our nation and her people. Adding that in this exercise we must be prepared to respect the laws that guide this freedom, mindful of the fact irresponsible reporting can be fatal with an example from the reporting that led to the Rwandan genocide. Only through respectfully and responsibly abiding by the laws of that we can get meaningful governance, a thriving economy to enjoy peace and stability. This is possible when we have responsible citizens that observe the laws of the land and a government that works in line with these laws, ethically, with vision.

    As I do not have any way of proving the facts of this matter but a mere he-say-she-say, in that we have not heard from Professor Septimus Kaikai who is reported to have expressed by telephone, to the SLBC Management, that the Office of the President be allowed to interrupt the Live Program and make an unprecedented rejoinder to what Dr. Blyden was saying to the Public on the issue, and the said person, a one Mr. Saio’ who is reported to have received instructions from someone urging him to destroy the recording of the live Program with Dr. Blyden so it could NOT be aired again the next day, Sunday at 19:00GMT. at the said broadcasting corporation, we are left with nothing but to put our reasoning to action to give us a better understanding of what is fair or not fair or what might be the truth. In which case, we can go back to history of what happened during previous governments with regards to Free Speech and press freedom and that which the government of the day has allowed or disallowed from the press and other citizens, to draw a speculative conclusion, in addition to our knowledge about technological problems that have or have not taken place in the world to see if this interruption is a ploy to quiet Dr. Blyden or that a potential exists for technical problems to occur.
    Therefore, as a citizen who wishes to be fair and loves peace and stability, I would say that even in the United States, multi-billion dollar broadcasting corporations such as ABC, NBC, CNBC, MSNB, CNN, FOX to name a few, have been interrupted when more important news is to be aired, and technical problems have occurred but since these are television, apologies have been made by reporters for such technical problems.
    When I was back home the BBC, VOA and Radio France have on numerous occasions experienced technical problems. But all viewers are told are, we are sorry for the technical problems and no further explanations are made to the cause of such problems. The Oprah Winfrey Show is aired at different times but on some days these show is not aired at all and no explanation or apology is rendered for such omission.
    Nonetheless, one thing that is remarkable is that, Dr. Olayinka Blyden can go to a radio or TV station to talk and have nationals call to add their voices regardless of party affiliations. But what is more remarkable is that a political Giant of Sierra Leone can respond to the bitter argument Dr. Blyden puts forward so as to allow the world to hear the side of the government.
    History will reveal that many political Commentators, Activists, Journalists and other ordinary citizens from other parts of the world and even Sierra Leone are currently serving jail time for opposing a government or their family members are bereaved and currently mourning for the death of their sons and daughters who ventured to talk about political parties to their countrymen or foreign nations, one such incident being the death of Mr. Osman Yansaneh, a reporter from Sierra Leone. He was allegedly brutally beaten for reporting on an incident involving an S.L.P.P. member of Parliament. But because Dr. Blyden has been reporting on an online newspaper saying what she likes without interruption as are many other news outlets is a reason to be hopeful that we have begun a journey towards actual democracy. We must commend whoever is responsible for this development.
    Other issues to consider is whether or not Dr. Blyden recalls an article posted on the Awareness online Newspaper on Apr 22, 2010, 17:24, titled: “Tony Blair In Le10 Billion Corruption and the technical problems that occurred on her newspaper and lasted for months?” Hopping that she apologizes to readers for not getting back to us all this time while continuation is made to inform us about the result of the investigation or the development that is made or the hindrance in the investigation because we are entitled to know? For months the newspaper, at least the online version has been having technical problems but those of us who read from the link are understandable that technical problems can occur when one deals with technology and mechanical materials.
    What is mostly fascinating is that we are moving towards actualizing the meaning behind the name the Athens of Africa. Therefore, we should be patient and responsible in reporting on the undertakings of the government and functionaries of Sierra Leone so as to avoid hick-ups and avoid misinforming the people of Sierra Leone.
    I would also admonish the government to continue to believe in the power of change as the good things they are doing now will be the guide towards an re-election, so that they cautious not to taint their applauding image for good work, on issues that citizens might not even take seriously because I believe in my heart that this government is moving in the right direction towards confirming the belief that we are Athens of West Africa by the press freedom, free speech and other developmental programs they are embarked on.
    I would hope that this issue is resolved remarkably.
    This is what I said in French.

  3. Emmaline says:

    Hello there. Albeit I don’t normally write a resonse on blogs, I thought I would today, only to thank you really! I’ve finally got the information I was seeking for (via your blog) on the 6th page of Yahoo results! So now I’m all covered :) Thanks again! Emmaline

  4. Sylvanus Thompson says:

    After reading the articule,by Sylvia,She made some good points,when she stated about president Koroma bieng dictatorial,she is right in a way,for example,a case in point is president koromas lands minister,by the name of Dr Sandy,who is illegally occuping a land,that does not belongs to him,i am refearing to the land thats belongs to the hire of late DR Abayomi Cole,why is it that President Koroma did not terminate him,is it because the minister is above the laws of sierra leone? so president koromas ministers are above the law.is it because the Abayomis are creoles,thats why their land should be taken from them?i do know that tribalism is playing a pivital role in presidents koromas,government anyway,especially agains the creoles.On the issues of Christian Thorpe i think she should be reappointed,had not been for her,sierra leone would have thrown into liones den by the slpp,because the slpp wanted to derail the last election.her appointment was good for the country.i do think how ever that president koromas have a tribalistic tendencies in his government.especially against the creoles.Just take a look at all of his appointments.he Fired Dr Ade Renner- Thomas a creole with a Phd in land law who was the land minister and he was replaced by Dr Sandy a mende, that leads me to believe that they just want to take the creole people lands.If president koroma want to be so fair,should appoint a seperate land ministers for each provinces,one for south,north,east,and the western area that should be under the auspecies of the creoles.WHY IS IT THAT THE CREOLES CANNOT BUY LAND IN THE PROVINCES,My priscription for sierra leone is to federalize the dam country by tribal home land,so that every one can run their own affairs,Now the immegration system is badly broken in the country all Tom Dick and Harry are commimg to the country at will example is the Fullahs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jacob Sax Conteh, why are you and most diehard APC affiliates/members so afraid to a probe into the reasons for the show not airing as usual? Are you all afraid of what an investigation into the matter may reveal? I’ve always said that if someone does not have anything to hide, let them reveal their cards so that things may be examined for what they are and we can all put things to rest peacefully afterwards. Is this too much to ask for with regard to Sylvia Blyden’s request? Cocorioko has been deleting my post and I will be surprised if they allow this response to be published.





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