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Umaru Fofana BBC Correspondent
Feb 9, 2009, 00:04
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C/O 47 Percival Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone;
Tel.: + 232 76 609 285; Email:

                                                             Date: 3 February 2009

The Managing Editor
For Di People newspaper
25 Pademba Road
Dear Sir,

Re: "APC Radio Replies Umaru Fofanah

I write in reply to a story in the Friday 6 February 2009 edition of your newspaper with the above headline. I respect your editorial judgement to give this a lead even though my letter of complaint, reaction to which is in the said article, you had not bothered to publish. Additionally, I would normally not bother to react to your adverse publications about me as you have done in the past. I strongly believe you will change your perception one day and spare me the unnecessarily harsh judgement.

Umaru Fofanah BBC Correspondent

That said, I have decided to reply to this one because of the simple reason that it is well sourced which is all what good journalism represents. For this I doff my hat to you. However, I would expect that you should have sought my reaction to claims contained therein especially in the case of the prisons report which I did about a month ago.

At the risk of sounding immodest, may I state clearly that in my 12 years in journalism, NEVER have I deliberately published falsehood or distorted or slanted any story for whatever reason. I say this hand on chest. And this has only done me good but has also led to so much misunderstanding of me.

When in January 2007 I reported on the BBC about the cancellation by the Paris Club of Sierra Leones debt and stated that "hunger is boldly written on the faces of Sierra Leoneans", Unity newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the then-governing Sierra Leone Peoples Party, went for my jugular. They even suggested that the BBC should not let me cover the presidential and legislative elections later that year because, in their view, I was biased in favour of the APC party. Hence I am not surprised at the attacks I have been receiving especially lately from people on the other side of the political spectrum who take a dim view to my dispassionate reportage. This resolve of mine is buoyed by the fact that different people react to different stories differently at different times.

In the first place, the Acting Director of Prisons, Moses A Showers is quoted in your story as saying that I reported that there were 100 children in the Pademba Road prison. I never said so. What I did say was that there were THREE children there, which was confirmed in the report by the Public Relations Officer of Prisons, Mohamed Jimmy in his own voice. This makes nonsense of Mr Showers also reportedly saying that I did not speak with any prison authorities. And the report is still available should you want to listen to it.

Whats more is that neither the prisons department nor the Ministry of Social Welfare have dealt with the core issue of these children languishing in jail which should be their priority in stead of bickering over numbers. I am heartened though by the good news the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Serry Kamal, told me on Wednesday at a dinner that the children and their mothers would soon be freed. Here is my report leading to the redemption of innocent children and no one will praise me for it. Just like they will not praise For Di People whose story in the mid to late 1990s about corruption, led to the forcible resignation of the then Minister of Marine Resources.

Also in your article, you quoted the Station Manager of We Yone radio, Mr Dennis Smith with whom I have a case at the Independent Media Commission and on which I would not like to comment beyond clarifying this point: You quoted him as saying that callers to his radio station "did express their dissatisfaction over what they regarded as the hastiness of Fofanah, in filing a very sensitive report for BBC the same day the letter was discovered without seeking the side of the government, neither the Defence Minister nor the Chief of Defence Staff". This is blatantly untrue. I received a copy of the DREAM Team letter from a colleague journalist on the night of Thursday 29 January. The same day many others, including the Defence Minister got hold of it. And on the following day, at least two newspapers published the story and more did so on Monday 2 February.

I did not report it until on the evening of Monday 2 February after a Government press conference. And in that illustrated 2:52 minute-long report, I used the voices of the Minister of Information, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, the Minister of Defence Paollo Conteh, and the Chief of Defence Staff Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams. Again that report is available and those who listened to it and are honest to themselves know the truth of the matter. So what is anyone talking about that I was hasty and did not get Governments reaction.

I appreciate the fact that because of the popularity of the BBC, my employers, my reports are scrutinised which helps me a great deal in being fair and truthful. But I would also appreciate it if people were a bit fairer in passing judgements on me.

I hope this reply will find space in your newspaper as quickly as you published the allegations made against me in your report.

Long live free speech.
Short live speech splotch.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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