Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden Writes to SLBC
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
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.