SIERRA LEONE GOVERNMENT
RESPONSE TO AWARENESS TIMES NEWSPAPER
13th August, 2010, Freetown- The attention of Government has been drawn to a letter written by Dr. Sylvia Blyden, owner of the Awareness Times newspaper where she claims that there was a deliberate attempt by an individual at State House to stop her from expressing her views on the SLBC. She further states, “whilst I had been Live over the Air educating the Public about the DICTOTARIAL manner in which President Koroma was behaving with respect to the hiring 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”.
The Government views the letter published by Dr. Sylvia Blyden not as an attempt to educate the public on any state matter but to deliberately prepare the minds of members of her party to refuse to accept the verdict of the Electoral Commission in the event that her party loses the elections in 2012. The Government views this deliberate attempt to incite members of the public to disrupt the electoral process as a grave matter that will be treated seriously. Her intentions were made clear in one of the paragraphs of her letter which reads; “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”. She further stated, “I described to the listening nation that President Koroma’s repeated actions of overriding 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 … 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.”
It must be stated that provisions in the Constitution and the 1965 Public Order Act protect the citizens and State institutions from any attempt by any individual to create a state of anarchy as Dr. Sylvia Blyden intends to create. President Ernest Bai Koroma is a democrat who believes in the rule of law and who believes in the separation of powers.
Dr. Christiana Thorpe was endorsed by Parliament and to suggest that she was imposed on the people of this country is at best mischievous.
Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone inherited Dr. Christiana Thorpe as Chief Electoral Commissioner after the SLPP lost power, and even after the assumption of office by President Koroma. Dr. Thorpe as Chief Electoral Commissioner has supervised the conduct of several elections including Local Council elections and bye-elections for Parliament; at no point did the President or his Government interfere with the operations of the National Electoral Commission. Even the ruling party, the APC has lost several seats either in bye elections or Local Council elections. Therefore, it cannot be suggested that the President or Government is interfering with elections conducted by Dr. Thorpe.
In the lengthy letter published by Dr. Sylvia Blyden, at no point did she give any instance of how and where Dr. Thorpe had abused her office as Chief Electoral Commissioner nor did she give any tangible reason why President Ernest Bai Koroma should not re-appoint Dr. Thorpe.
It is very clear that the so-called letter addressed to the Chairman and members of the Board of Trustees and management of the SLBC was a deliberate ploy to use the incident to take a swipe at the President and Dr. Christiana Thorpe for the sole purpose of inciting members of Dr. Blyden’s political party to reject the outcome of the 2012 elections, should her political party lose the Elections.
Government wants to make it clear to Dr, Sylvia Blyden and the general public that the appointment of Dr. Christiana Thorpe, as Chief Electoral Commissioner is irreversible.
The Management of SLBC has disassociated itself from Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s vicious allegations in a letter addressed to Sylvia Blyden herself which reads:
“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. Blyden did not mention the name of the official at State House who attempted to stop her when she was on the air at the SLBC. She also simply used the isolated incident at the SLBC to raise an issue which had been put to rest by the House of Parliament. It must be stated for the benefit of members of the public that at no time since the establishment of the SLBC has a member of the Government or State House attempted to interfere with editorial policies of the SLBC.
It must be further emphasized that the SLBC was created deliberately by the President for the purposes of promoting the democratic culture and to also give an opportunity to Sierra Leoneans of all shades of opinion to express themselves without hindrance and therefore to even suggest that Dr. Sylvia Blyden was stopped from expressing her views is most ridiculous.
Since the SLBC was established, members of all Political Parties and other members of the public have participated in programmes that are sometimes critical of the government which further explains why the Government believes that Dr. Blyden is up to some mischief.
Independence of the media and Freedom of expression which President Koroma continues to promote are part of the democratic culture but should not be abused. It is quite clear that Dr. Blyden is trying to exploit the openness of Government for her personal political benefit.
The Government will investigate the contents of the so-called letter written by Dr. Blyden after which the outcome of the findings will be made public.
The Government holds the view that the letter to the Board of the SLBC was a deliberate ploy to create mischief, hence the elaborate publicity given to a letter aimed at misleading members of the public.
FROM: THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
8TH FLOOR, YOUYI BUILDING
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.