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Published online by
Sylvia Blyden Dot Com

17 Garrison Street,
Freetown,
Sierra Leone.
Tel: +232-77-772001
Tel: +232-88-321000
Tel: +232-76-350077
Tel: +232-30-321001
Email:
editor@awarenesstimes.com
Website:
www.awarenesstimes.com

FROM OUR TEAM  

Sylvia Blyden Responds to a Genuinely Concerned Sierra Leone Citizen
By Sylvia Blyden
Aug 31, 2011, 18:06
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Dear Mr. Tondoneh,

Many many thanks for your lengthy email which was well crafted. We were on a Muslim Holiday break in Sierra Leone hence the delayed response.

First of all, let me state that I consider your concerns to be very legitimate and they have been re-echoed by many. I am going to publish your legitimate concerns down below following which I will publish my hopefully convincing response.

-----START OF YOUR CONCERNS-----
> Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:18:40 +0100
> From: kombatondoneh@*****.***
> Subject: RE: CLARIFICATION OF POSITION RE PHOTOS WITH MAADA BIO.
> To: editor@awarenesstimes.com
>
> LETTER TO THE EDITOR/SYLVIA BLYDEN.
>
> Dear Editor/Dr. Blyden.
> I have been and still am an ardent reader of your paper one of those in the
> diaspora. I have for a long time admired your courage and tenacity to take on
> and expose/explore most difficult subjects and at times "sacred" issues and not
> only dissected them in the public interest, but informed and educated the public
> thus creating the awareness for which you stood and hopefully still stand for.
> I have in the past also followed your analysis of issues relating to and dealing
> with the now elected SLPP flag bearer, Mr. Julious Maada Bio. However recent
> events emanating from the poses that are now doing the usual rounds on your site
> and on other media sites have to some extent sent a chill down the spines of
> most objective readers of your papers.
> It is an indisputable fact that politicians of all colour, class or creed
> across the world, endeavour to lie in the same bed with journalist, especially
> popular editors and publishers. One case in point has been the recent
> saga involving the British government and Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
> My concern here is and most people will agree, your independence and
> impartiality. Dr. Blyden, in all of the scathing attacks you launched against
> Mr. Bio unearthing what you at the time concluded that democracy, even by Sierra
> Leone's standard should never accept a man of his calibre never mind allow such
> an individual to be a president of our young democracy. Do you or would ever
> stand by those articles you wrote? Or is it the case of that was then, things
> are different now?
> Having seen your photo in which you posed with a smile like a woman who has
> suddenly discovered her child hood sweet heart with no strings attached. A type
> of smile that can melt even a frozen butter on a cold wooden spoon. A photograph
> that has and continues to speak volumes. not only that, it has giving the
> general public to call your very integrity in to question. As if that was not
> concerning enough, to pose with your editors etc, makes the whole thing even
> more frightening. Do not get me wrong, I am not in the least concluding that
> things are as the perfect photos fit for the bed room walls may presents. But
> can you ever be impartial after that smiling that people now refer to in the
> diaspora at least " Sylvia and Bio have made up".
> Dr. Blyden, I have seen a lot of photographs of you smiling and feeling really
> relaxed. But this one looks different and tells a different story.Not that you
> let your hair down, but you might aswell give in.
> What many people are now asking is: was that an apology to Bio for what your
> media company has been saying about him? If not what was the rational and what
> message did you or were you intending to send out to your readers across the
> world. Or as an independent and very vocal and outspoken journalist, who had in
> the past held Bio where it hurts the most now seemed to be flirting with him, is
> it as it is now said" the war don don between Sylvia en Bio". Can you clarify
> that story if you can?
> Dr. Blyden, I know you know we know that you may not have intended to compromise
> your journalistic impartiality, but to have the executive of an entire media
> house cuddling and actually posing in a re conciliatory mood with the leading
> flag bearer of an opposition party, exposes you to charges of pledging your
> loyalty to that party. That may not be the case, but knowing what your paper had
> published about this very man, you left little or nothing to the imagination.
> My question is, if your loyalties now lies where your cajoling smiles lie, can
> you then clarify if all you said about Mr. Bio during the run up to the flag
> bearer election was in the nations best interest or was a personal vendetta.
> Like a woman seeking revenge on a man that publicly stood her up on her first
> date only to see the man run away with her best friend to the same venue they
> were meant to dine and wine.
> Your impartiality like any other news paper publisher may be crucial to the rest
> of the country in presenting wrongs and wright to the nation at all times.
> It would be very helpful should you be able to clarify your position to your
> readers about the change of loyalties if any as most people now see it.
> Hopefully your change of loyalty (if any at all) would not blur your vision of
> objectivity in creating the awareness we in our nation building.
> Most of us have always relied on your media house for objectivity in reporting
> events back home.
> CAN WE STILL CONTINUE TO DO THAT?
> KOMBA ALPHA TONDONEH(K.T.)
--------END OF YOUR CONCERNS---------

Now for my response to the above concerns. Sir, what you have read and what you have seen is a pictorial report that the much-publicised personal problems between Awareness Times and Maada Bio caused by physical and verbal attacks on our journalists, has been peacefully settled.

When you read an article inside Awareness Times saying that all what we had written about Maada Bio were Lies, then you should start to be worried and doubt our Editorial Integrity. As a firm believer in the country's Criminal Libel Laws, I am very, very careful with what I publish - now and in the past. This is why we have never been found wanting for Libel despite all our stances; sometimes in extremely antagonistic political climates. We never publish what we cannot prove to be true and in the interest of the public.

Sir, I wonder why when I reconciled with President Koroma several times in the past (with photos to boot), it never caused such a stir. (SMILE). At the Independence Anniversary Celebrations at State House this year, President Koroma stopped his entourage greetings to publicly request me to take a photograph with him on the State House Lawns. He was all smiles as we posed together for numerous cameras. Recall how just a few days before the Independence anniversary celebrations, we had criticised the President very strongly for donating cash to youths on the streets. The fall-out of that position of ours against the generous actions of the President was so severe that one newspaper used unprintable invectives against my person. However, a few days later, the President stopped to ask photographers to take our photo together smiling.

I suspect the political maturity of President Koroma ensured he never allowed press animosity to go on unabated for such extended periods - he always found ways to reach out to us as the President is matured enough in politics to know the ramifications and fall-outs of extended press battles with powerful media houses. He is also tolerant enough to know the Press has to be encouraged to criticise him to make him a better leader.

Once again, allow me to state that this Publisher prides herself on the sanctity of all her press reports which can legally stand the test of time. However, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden is also a practising Christian who perfectly understands what it is that she is daily appealing for when she kneels down to say to the Almighty: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Sir, who am I not to reconcile with a fellow Sierra Leonean when I ask my God to forgive my human frailties all the time? Who am I to shun making peace with a fellow Sierra Leonean when I ask my God to give me the peace that passeth all understanding?

Does making peace with Maada Bio equal questioning my editorial independence? Interesting... Does making peace with Maada Bio equals an endorsement of his Presidential ambition? Interesting... Does hugging Maada Bio after our reconciliation meeting equals he is now the person I am going to vote for as President come 2012? Interesting...

I find the above positions to be interesting because just yesterday, August 30th 2011, I was the Very Special Guest of the Honourable Members of Parliament from Port Loko, whom together with His Excellency President Ernest Koroma, invited me to join them on the Port Loko Field for Muslim Prayers. It was shown live over National Television as President Koroma gave me a warm embrace in Port Loko and addressed me as his Sierra Leone sister.

Do not forget that this President Koroma is the same man I have had very, very heated issues with in the past! However, we are both practising Christians and what we exhibited yesterday in Port Loko was the epitome of our religion: Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

I will refrain from publishing the photograph of President Koroma hugging me in a bear-like hug yesterday in Port Loko as shown over National Television and witnessed live by hundreds of people. But please see below three exclusive photos of the two of us after prayers at the Presidential Lodge in Port Loko yesterday.

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and President Koroma pose for the Cameras yesterday August 30th 2011 in Port Loko Guest Lodge. She was specially seated next to the President in the midst of scores of other local and international dignitaries.

President Koroma and Sylvia Blyden smilingly pose shortly after the President gave Blyden a bear hug which was shown Nationwide on SLBC Television yesterday August 30th 2011

Dr. Sylvia Blyden listening keenly at the Port Loko Lodge as President Koroma outlines some points to her about his Agenda for Change successes. She was specially seated next to the President in the midst of scores of other local and international dignitaries.

So, what will you now say after viewing these photos? Have I declared for Ernest Koroma's candidacy simply because we hugged each other in Port Loko yesterday August 30th 2011 and this was shown live over National Television? (SMILE). Am I suddenly a die-hard fan of President Koroma, the same man I have bitterly criticised in the recent past?

I hope I have been able to reassure you that this newspaper has been and will continue to be a very independent newspaper but which equally so reserves the right to ensure that no-one working here becomes an easy physical target for those who are upset with the contents of what is published herein. We will fight back in the best way possible and we will do so within the boundaries of the laws of the land especially Criminal Libel Laws of Sierra Leone which latter laws not only frown on false reports BUT also frown on truthful reports which are not in the interest of the general public.

None of our past articles on the SLPP's Presidential Candidate falls foul of the country's Criminal Libel Laws just as none of our past articles on the APC's Presidential Candidate has fallen foul of the Criminal Libel Laws.

Sylvia Blyden hugging Maada Bio, her Sierra Leonean brother, on August 25th 2011 does not mean she has endorsed Bio's presidential ambitions just as Sylvia Blyden hugging the President yesterday August 30th 2011, does not mean she has endorsed the President's re-election bid.

Bottom-line, Ernest Koroma, Maada Bio and Sylvia Blyden are practising Christians so what you are seeing is just us practising our Religion which preaches forgiveness and peace as its cornerstones.

God bless you for reading this far and once more, I truly hope I have reassured you that our editorial sanctity is still intact - as it has always been.

Sir, you and all our readers can continue to count on us. Sylvia Blyden warmly hugging her Sierra Leone brother Maada Bio should not mean the world has come to an end. It just means the personal issues between the newspaper and Mr. Bio have been settled. Whilst the personal issues between Sierra Leonean siblings have been settled, the National issues are different issues altogether.

Please accept my Warmest and Most Respectful Regards from Freetown.

Sylvia Blyden.


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

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