Does the BBC screen the Sierra Leone journalists they hire ? PART 2

Filed under: Opinion |

By Solomon Sesay :




I WILL BRING YOU PART 3 : IN THAT  INSTALLMENT , WE WILL ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS : Who is Margaret ? Why is Victor Sylver abusing this poor woman , HIS WIFE, whom he is accusing of once being the girlfriend of  one of  our government diplomats in New York  ? MEANWHILE, READ PART 2 BELOW…In this installment, using Victor Sylver as my example,I am going to demonstrate how the BBC  has been doing injustice to our country by hiring correspondents with mental problems.

 Last week, I started asking questions whether the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC ) really screens the people they employ as Correspondents in Sierra Leone. My question was precipitated by an article written by the Publisher of NEWSTIME AFRICA , Mr. Ahmed Kamara , in which he complained that : “The BBC is an important media institution. One that has a moral and ethical obligation to get things right in its reporting of events happening across the world. And you would expect when it decides to enlist the services of a local journalist to report on events happening on the ground, it should take important steps to ensure that person is of impeccable character and with an outstanding reputation. But it seems this is sadly not the case in Sierra Leone. ”

Being a man who has been disappointed before by the performance of our BBC Reporters from Sierra Leone, I supported Mr. Kamara’s concerns. I am sure many Sierra Leoneans who have followed BBC reports on Sierra Leone are disappointed , like me, because of the outright lies, distortion of facts , deliberate besmearing of the character of our people and institutions, especially by a particular BBC Correspondent called Victor Sylver, who is a huge embarrassment to the BBC. Looking  at the character and unprofessional conduct of Victor Sylver , one can easily agree with Ahmed Kamara that the BBC  does not take its time to hire men of impeccable character and outstanding reputation in Sierra Leone.


There is no journalist in Sierra Leone who does not know Victor Sylver for what he is–A vindictive, lying and dishonest character who is adept at concocting stories about people and events. It was these same attitudes of Victor Sylver that forced him to flee from Sierra Leone in 1998 when he concocted stories he sent to the BBC .Victor Sylver is a professed supporter of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ). As a result of this, Victor has made it his business to tarnish the names of All People’s Congress (APC ) functionaries, officials, supporters and any journalist construed as sympathetic to the APC cause.

 An aggrieved journalist wrote this about Sylver in an online newspaper : “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. 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. 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……” .

 Because of Victor Sylver’s false reporting to the BBC, he endangered the lives of fellow Sierra Leoneans. The last straw came when ECOMOG  bombed Mabella Wharf , resulting in the decapitation of over a dozen innocent civilians. Mourning relatives of the victims were stunned when they heard  Victor Sylver’s voice the next day on the BBC  lying that  there had been no bombing of Mabella by ECOMOG and that the story was being concocted by journalists sympathetic to the junta. It was the family of the victims who, in their anger, went after Victor Sylver. They hunted for him in an attempt to lynch him for his insensitivity and callous lack of sympathy for their relatives . The SLPP Government had bribed Victor Sylver to lie to the BBC that there had been no bombing. With his loot,   he managed to escape to London and as soon as he got there , he started spreading false reports that some of his colleague journalists had been the ones who betrayed him to the junta. Since then, Victor Sylver had been writing all kinds of defamatory stories against the journalists he suspected.  

A  drunkard and wife-beater, Victor  has failed to excell in British society .For all his education he is a bus conductor in London and for his frustration he takes it out on innocent people .  He set up a website in which he spends all his time attacking other journalists who have excelled in life  better than him . When he is not doubting their qualifications and telling lies about them , he is doubting their rights to call themselves journalists. Another journalist , disappointed with Victor had this to say about Victor Sylver :

 ”Sylver, who now does photography for the BBC African Service in London, a couple of years ago created an obscure and highly libellous website  specifically targeted at Seaga Shaw, EXPO TIMES, and all journalists that did not support the ECOMOG invasion of Sierra Leone in 1998. ”

“He has attacked, always without evidence or foundation, journalists like Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma,Cocorioko editor Wilfred Kabs-Kanu,Ibrahim Ben Kargbo(the current Information minister in Freetown)Abu Shaw,former presidential spokesman Kanji Daramy, Sheka Tarawalie and a host of others. EJN, exasperated and concerned by this gross lack of professionalism and calumny, has reportedly asked him to provide evidence for his accusations or face expulsion from the organization.”

“It’s not clear whether the owners of the server that hosts Victor’s website are aware of his libellous rants and hate-filled drivel. It’s also not likely that the BBC, a very professional organization, is aware of Victor’s madness on the internet.”

“In a recent diatribe, he has attacked PV editor Gibril Koroma for publishing an article on Sullay Adekulay, a London-based Sierra Leonean journalist. He claimed Sullay is not a journalist even though many people in Freetown knew Sullay as Sheka Tarawalie’s second in command at the now defunct TORCHLIGHT newspaper.”

“Journalists are not the only people viciously assaulted on the internet by the BBC photographer cum journalist. He has attacked individuals in and out government in Sierra Leone including the current head of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Justice George Gelega-King who he once accused of wanton corruption without a shred of evidence.”

One can see from all these reports that the BBC made an error to employ Victor Sylver as their Correspondent.  His character is too bad for a reputable organization like the BBC .  Victor Sylver is mentally incapacitated from the way he behaves . Reports from people who know his family describe him as a drunkard , abuser and wife-beater. The Police had been called to his home many times for spousal abuse. His wife, Margaret,  is in a living hell . Sylver would not stop beating her to force her to confess her alleged affair with the journalist in question and for opposing his wild drinking and irresponsible living.

I mentioned last week that Victor Sylver allows his personal grudges for people to define his journalistic work. The journalists  quoted above mentioned names of other journalists the crazed  maniac Victor Sylver attacks out of jealousy . Sylver’s beef with one of the journalistsin that list   is that the publisher had a romantic affair with his wife, Margaret who was her neighbour at Brookfields , Freetown , in the 1970s before Sylver met the lady . Sylver himself made the accusation in his website while ranting against the journalist .Though he has deleted it, many people saw it.   Because of this grudge he has for the journalist , Sylver attacks him   now and again with the same ploy he uses against others , doubting their qualifications.  The journalist  does not know Sylver from Adam and could not understand why Sylver was  attacking him now and again until he made the accusation in his website . It can only be because of the accusation Sylver levied against him that he had a romantic affair with his wife, Margaret , that Sylver is attacking him.  But this journalist  is not the only person flabbergasted at Victor Sylver’s unprovoked attacks.


Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: Presidential Spokesman Questions Victor Sylver
15 March 2004


Freetown — Presidential Spokesman, Kanji Daramy is presently engaged in a war of words with one time BBC reporter and current editor of the Herald website, Victor Sylver. The battlefield for this latest warfare is through the Internet. The Spokesman is apparently angry over Sylver’s online publication with the heading, “Former stamp-licker, chief weed puller and head of the State House/lodge praise singers reinvents himself as a journalist.” Sylver’s concern according to the story was as a result of story done on the president’s website on the occasion of the opening of the courthouse at the Special Court.

” This individual took upon himself to write what he believed should be a story worthy of the website of the Head of State of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The man went as far as to give himself a by-line, indicating that he too, has convinced himself that he is now a journalist!!!!!!,” Sylver stated and asked , “What is he up to? Does he want to show the donor community that funds are not being wasted on him and that he too, is a member of the profession, capable of writing fitting and professional stories?” In his reply to Sylver that was forwarded to Concord Times, the Presidential Spokesman fired, “Something must be wrong with your thinking processes. Your puerile attempts to attack my person for no good reason only end in showing how confused you are.” He continued, “You don’t even know about me. All you pour out about me is based on some bias I will refuse to call by its real name. Perhaps you need to talk to seasoned Sierra Leonean journalists like Pios Foray, Kwame Fitzjohn, Frank Kposowa and others with whom I was at Fourah Bay College in the early seventies.” See full text I don’t know where you were but I entered Fourah Bay College straight from secondary school in 1971 after my ordinary level exams to read ENGLISH, FRENCH and MODERN HISTORY. I had just turned eighteen at the time.


What’s wrong with Victor Sylver?

 - Tuesday 15 April 2008.

By Sullay Adekulay, London.

For a little over a year now Victor Sylver has embarked on a smear campaign on my identity as a journalist who was working for the now defunct ‘Torch Light’ newspaper of Freetown.

At first I opted to maintain a dignified silence. But it seems as if the ageing alcoholic and mentally disturbed miscreant called Victor Sylver is interpreting my silence to mean an acknowledgement of guilt.

For Victor Sylver to have the idiocy and temerity to publish defamatory materials on his online ‘Sierra Herald’ newspaper left me with no other option but to put the records straight.

I would like to make it known to the former BBC stringer now London bus conductor and photographer that I loathe being an impostor, and I will never be one.

Victor claimed to have conducted a thorough investigation about me through colleague journalists in Freetown and his sources revealed that I was never a practising journalist.

The disgraced Victor Sylver is actually not telling the truth. Victor sent my picture to Kelvin Lewis, editor of ‘Awoko’ newspaper in Freetown to investigate about my identity as a journalist and Mohamed Sankoh a renowned journalist that used to work for the ‘Torch Light’ newspaper, now working for ‘Awoko’ newspaper was quick to respond in the affirmative that both of us worked for ‘TheTorch Light’ newspaper, and not only that, I had also deputised Sheka on numerous occasions.

If Victor Sylver the alcholic needs further clarifications about my identity as a journalist here is a list of reputable journalists that he can contact:

Sorie Fofanah( Sierra Leone High Commission Press Attaché) Abdulai Baraytay( Patriotic Vaguard deputy editor), Sorie Sudan Sesay( Editor of ‘Independent Observer’) Jonathan Leigh ( Managing editor of ‘ Independent Observer’) Mohamed Koroma( Former Managing editor of ‘ The African Champion now deputy minister of Information), Tatafway Tumoe( former deputy editor -in chief of ‘the Torch Light’ newspaper), Pasco Temple( Former news editor of The Torch Light newspaper), the list will go on and on.

Apart from practising as a journalist with the ‘Torch Light’ newspaper, the ageing, tired and confused Victor Sylver should also know that my activities as a journalist went far beyond the borders of Sierra Leone.

In 1998 when Victor Sylver and his cronies were baying for the blood of colleague journalists, I went to seek refuge in The Gambia and notwithstanding the fact that I was fleeing from the murderous campaign of Victor Sylver, the love for journalism drove me to pitch tent with ‘The Independent’ newspaper in The Gambia where I excelled before relocating to the United Kingdom.

The mentally disturbed Victor can verify this fact with Tatafway Tumoe with whom I worked in the Gambia.What else can I prove to this disgraceful bus conductor?

One thing I know about the ageing bus conductor is that, he is always saddened by the progress of others. Victor is not on speaking terms with Sorie Fofanah, because he personally asked former president Kabbah to compensate him with the position of Press Attaché’ to the Sierra Leone High Commission in England for his murderous campaign against colleague journalists.

Competent sources even revealed that Victor felt unfairly treated when Kabbah compensated people like Julius Spencer and Alie Bangura with ministerial appointments.

Victor Sylver also extended his rancour to Special Court head Justice George Gelega-King, whom he once virulently attacked and defamed, retired Brigadier M.S.Tarawalie, and Kanji Daramy, the former spokesman of President Kabbah. The reason for his diatribe against Kanji Daramy was on the fact that he(Victor) had nurtured high expectations that he will be appointed spokesman for President Kabbah. I cannot really fathom how Victor Sylver with an agriculture educational background, can fit into such a position.

Victor’s attack on my personality stems out of jealousy for being elected to the enviable position of board member of the United Kingdom based Exiled Journalists Network, and indeed Victor Sylver must be out of is mind to question my identity as a journalist.

Is Victor suffering from mental illness or severe depression? I wonder.

More details on Victor later.


 I WILL BRING YOU PART 3 : IN OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT : Who is Margaret ? Why is Victor Sylver abusing this poor woman whom he is accusing of once being the girlfriend of a fellow journalist  ?




By Solomon Sesay :

I have read with concern the recent editorial in the popular NEWSTIME AFRICA online newspaper published by Mr.Ahmed M. Kamara , titled  ‘BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone Umaru Fofana has become an unnecessary embarrassment to this reputable media institution”. I am disturbed by the article because if true it explains why Africa continues to suffer from the problems of negative perception from the Western world. I have travelled extensively in Europe and I am disappointed about the perception people in these countries have for third world countries , especially Africa.  Europeans have no respect for us because they think that we are still living in backwardness and chaos.


However much we may want to blame the Europeans, we have to realize that their perception of us is shaped by our own African people and what they write and broadcast about us in the international media. Sierra Leone is one country that has been a victim of negative perceptions mainly because of the reports sent to the world especially by our BBC reporters. Those the BBC  hire to report news in Sierra Leone never portray the country in good light , because they never send stories about the developments taking place in our country, like our multi-party democracy, free press,  active civil society groups and human rights organizations, our public and justice sector reforms , infrastructural developments, peace and stability and our free and fair presidential and legislative elections. 

I don’t know Fofana and I am not saying what is written about him is true  but I think the BBC should screen the reporters they hire to report for them from third world countries. I have listened to reports sent by our BBC Correspondents and I am not impressed because they all just seem to emphasize the negative happenings  which they spice with lies and falsehood . It happened when Victor Sylver was the reporter and it is happening again during the era of Umaru Fofana. Victor’s false reporting forced his escape from Sierra Leone .  When correspondents do not insulate themselves from their personal grudges, jealousies and conflicts with people, there is bound to be bias and untruths in their reports.  When correspondents are not impartial observers of events in their countries , their reports are bound to be biased and one-sided against particular governments. This dichotomy affects none else but the BBC , which as Mr. Ahmed M. Kamara describes it is a reputable institution .The reputation and credibility of the BBC  gets affected when their correspondents send them all manners of slanted reports which they don’t take time to verify.


There is the even shocking story of this  BBC Reporter-turned- online newspaper publisher, who lives in London and works as a bus conductor and   who is said to be writing all kinds of malicious and false stories against a Sierra Leonean minister because of a conflict that dates back to the 70s when this minister was the neighbour of the  BBC reporter’s present wife at Brookfields , Freetown . According to reports, the  BBC reporter  suspects and believes that the minister, who was once a teacher at the Secondary Technical School,   conducted a sexual affair with his prospective wife before he married her. I learn that he even made mention about it once in his online  newspaper. This  silver- coated belief is bothering this drunkard of a  Bus Conductor so much that he has abused his wife on countless times for her to confess the affair. This grudge has spilled into the reporter’s work  and all he writes about  are about the minister   . I find this very unprofessional and unethical of this BBC Reporter . What is past is past and should not affect his professional performance and demeanor. According to the minister when I spoke to him, this was a journalist he once had respect for because he worked with the minister’s brother at SLBS. He said he had nothing against this reporter to warrant such hostility . 

I think to stop their reporters from becoming an unnecessary embarrasment to them, the BBC should thoroughly screen the reporters they hire to serve as their correspondents , especially in fragile countries like Sierra Leone where peace is being consolidated and which depends on donor partners to help take her through her reconstruction process. I hope to follow up this topic.

Also published in the NEW DAILY NATION :


BBC correspondent in Sierra Leone Umaru Fofana has become an unnecessary embarrassment to this reputable media institution

By Ahmed M. Kamara

Umaru Fofana – Embarrassing the BBC
The BBC is an important media institution. One that has a moral and ethical obligation to get things right in its reporting of events happening across the world. And you would expect when it decides to enlist the services of a local journalist to report on events happening on the ground, it should take important steps to ensure that person is of impeccable character and with an outstanding reputation. But it seems this is sadly not the case in Sierra Leone. Umaru Fofana happens to be one of the correspondents who file reports for the BBC from Freetown on a daily basis. What the BBC may not know is that Fofana has become embroiled in the nasty politics of the opposition SLPP party; and if his recent reports are anything to go by, it seems he has become the camouflaged conduit of this morally bankrupt political organization. If anybody should observe and go by the tenets of the journalism profession, it should be Umaru Fofana. He doubles as president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, and his tenure has been plagued by controversy after controversy, as his style of leadership has come under scrutiny, and has been seriously questioned by his colleagues, who have expressed dissatisfaction and anger over his arrogance and lack of temerity.

Fofana has abused his privileged position in the media by engaging in fallacy and fabricating stories while deliberately distorting the reality of events taking place on the ground in Sierra Leone. This press has been inundated with calls from tribal heads and chiefdom elders in the Tonkolili and Bumbuna areas of the northern part of Sierra Leone, who are claiming that the BBC correspondent, in his latest reports, alleged that he interviewed them about an incident that involved the death of three people who were unfortunately killed in a road accident. According to the report filed, Fofana claimed that seven people died when in fact only three lost their lives. He also  said the people of Tonkolili were unhappy over the incident and where furious over the activities of African Minerals, a well established mining company that has been involved in massive community projects including the building of health centers and educational institutions to service this underprivileged area of the North. They told this press that they are prepared to expose Umaru Fofana for the blatant lies and utter disregard of the facts as they know it. In fact it has come to light that this is not the first time that Fofana is reported to have misrepresented the facts about what is really happening in Tonkolili. Documented reports filed by Fofana to the BBC reveals a determined agenda to cause mayhem and confusion in this beautiful and important part of Sierra Leone.

This is indeed erroneous reporting and should not be tolerated by the British broadcaster, as it endangers the peace and tranquility of a region that takes pride in its cohesion and social tolerance. But it seems Umaru Fofana uses every opportunity he has to paint a nasty picture about the sitting government and any company working in the interest of the country’s development – for political gain. Unconfirmed reports coming from credible sources in Freetown alleged that Umaru Fofana has become so close to the opposition SLPP party, that he helped draft and construct the acceptance speech of the newly elected flagbearer of the party, who will be contesting the upcoming election. If these allegations are true, then it makes Umaru Fofana’s position as President of SLAJ untenable, and he may have no choice but to resign. It also makes it difficult for the BBC to continue to have as its reporter in Sierra Leone, a man whose shambolic and disgraceful performance as a journalist, threatens to put the media organization’s reputation at risk.

Umaru Fofana represents a class of journalists whose pretense to call the government to account is simply a showcase of the reckless practice of journalism that has been constantly used to advance their own selfish cause. It is one thing to call the government to account and accuse reputable business entities of engaging in corruption and bad practices, but isn’t it also vulgar when your agenda is purely a disguised political approach to demean those you report on?  Umaru Foafana has failed his colleagues in the media and has become an embarrassment to the journalism profession. The BBC may have to find an alternative if it is to salvage what is left of its reputation in this small West African state.  I don’t see how Fofana can recover from this – as even the party he is alleged to be supporting seems destined for massive defeat at the polls come 2012.

© 2011, Cocorioko Newspaper. All rights reserved. – For the Latest News on Sierra leone

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