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Does the BBC screen the Sierra Leone journalists they hire ?

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Does the BBC screen the Sierra Leone journalists they hire ?

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 if true,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 a BBC Reporter-turned- online newspaper publisher,  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 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 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.


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.

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