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When Journalism is Practised Badly, it creates confusion all over: A sad Case of US Ambassador, IMC’s McJohnson & Umaru Fofana
Oct 29, 2012, 12:22
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There have been hectic efforts to do damage control over recent words of U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone. His defenders have accused general public of not understanding the actual words he used. They say he never stated a run-off was “likely” but merely said it was a possibility given our laws. So who is to blame for this misunderstanding fed to the public? Well, in this edition, we have featured a look at IMC’s Rod McJohnson & SLAJ’s Umaru Fofana’s coverage of the said utterance of the Ambassador. Please see below to see what happens when journalism goes bad.

Umaru Fofana & Rod McJohnson’s Shameful Journalism...might do more than embarrass U.S. Ambassador; these characters might set Salone ablaze!

By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden

It is no more a secret that the United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Mike Owen has found himself on the receiving end of criticisms he deserves; not least for his public comments against the stated position of the sitting Head of State of a country he is diplomatically assigned to. I am amazed the Ambassador actually went over the air to urge the President to debate with opposition’s Maada Bio after the President had made it clear he would not share a debating platform with Mr. Bio.


Publicly challenging the position of the Head of State is one thing but when placed in the context of his other alleged words of placing a “likelihood” on there being a run-off polls because the opposition Maada Bio was a “strong candidate”, it is no wonder that the ongoing diplomatic furore has found its way into the international pages of the prestigious WASHINGTON TIMES newspaper of America which has been generously quoting Mr. Mohamed Bangura of the UDM and Mr. Ahmed Kamara of NEWS TIME AFRICA.


Bangura has called the actions of the U.S. Ambassador as reckless and undiplomatic whilst Kamara has called for the removal of the ambassador from our soil. Both gentlemen are upset not so much with the call for a presidential debate to be held but with the allegedly expressed ‘likely’ chance of a run-off.


However, in fairness to the U.S. diplomat, it is now appearing that aside the obvious faux pas of calling for the doomed presidential debate to be held, the talk of the run-off being a likelihood was misrepresented by no less persons than the Chairman of the country’s Independent Media Commission (who is still a practising journalist for Agence France Presse) Mr. Rod McJohnson and the embattled President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Umaru Fofana who edits a so-called ‘politics rebranding’ newspaper, POLITICO and is BBC’s correspondent.


It is now clear that Umaru Fofana’s ultra-opposition leanings have so gotten the better of him that he went ahead to misquote the U.S. Ambassador on his poorly read POLITICO front page thus helping to fuel the ongoing diplomatic furore.



The truth is that there is a clear-cut difference between the words “likely” and “possible”. A ‘likelihood’ is different from a ‘possibility’. Even a primary school pupil will tell you that if something is “likely” it means that it is almost surely going to happen whilst if something is “possible”, it merely means it is possibility which could or couldn’t have a minuscule chance of ever happening.


A picture of the headline & first paragraph of the misleading quotation as sent out by Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency. This image with FAKE QUOTATIONS is right now being seen all around the world through the Internet. It was sent out by the man assigned to “regulate” the media in Sierra Leone who also doubles as the AFP correspondent, Mr. Rod McJohnson. Is it ethical for McJohnson to be AFP correspondent and at the same time, be the Chairman of the Independent Media Commission? When he blunders like he has now done in his mis-quoting the American Ambassador, who will “regulate” Rod McJohnson? Can the regulator regulate himself?

This is the front page of the poorly read Umaru Fofana edited newspaper which had its misleading headline read over all local radio stations. Radio listeners were told that US Ambassador said run-off elections were “likely”. The truth is that the Ambassador NEVER used the word “likely”.


Front page of Umaru Fofana’s POLITICO of the day after the broadcast (Tuesday October 23rd 2012) had a screaming headline of:




Fofana’s paper is one of poor-selling sheets littering this country. Not many people have heard about it and even less bother to read it. He might wish to find out why. However, all our local radio stations have this habit of reading out the front page headlines of all newspapers in the country; be they ill-read or be they like this one which is widely read.

This is how the front page “likely” headline of POLITICO was read out on all the local radio stations and also over the national TV without informing people of what the quoted words of the Ambassador actually said. To make matters worse, as if picking up a cue from SLPP-leaning Fofana, the Chairman of Independent Media Commission, Rod McJohnson, who doubles as the foreign correspondent for the Agence France Press international news agency, on that same October 23rd, picked up the headline verbatim from Umaru Fofana’s front page and splashed it around the world; again with the same misleading headline claiming the Ambassador said a run-off was “likely”.


The truth is that the Ambassador never said a run-off was “likely”. He merely said run-off elections in Sierra Leone is a “possibility” unlike in America where their system is different and there is no need for run-offs.


It is interesting that both Rod McJohnson and Umaru Fofana recently made complete fools of themselves in attempts to muzzle AWARENESS TIMES down and ‘shut up’ the publisher of the newspaper. They have seriously lost out a lot of the respect they used to wield and this has even seen the Secretary-General of SLAJ resign in disgust from Fofana’s executive.

Umaru repeated the same misleading headline inside his SLPP-biased sheet he publishes. It was a LIE


Both McJohnson and  Fofana have been citing outlandish reasons for their jealousy of AWARENESS TIMES. They have been joined by one of their partners-in-crime, Kelvin Lewis of Awoko Newspaper in which newspaper Rod McJohnson chuffs out his usually boring journalistic contributions.


In a phone conversation with this newspaper yesterday, Rod McJohnson confirmed that indeed he was the person who filed the erroneous report to his principals in AFP wherein he cited that the U.S. Ambassador had said the chances of a run-off was “likely”.


Ridiculously, McJohnson was waffling over the phone to us about how he had spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent for AFP but did  not say anything on why he so shamefully misrepresented the words of the U.S. Ambassador in his international dispatch.


Unless Rod McJohnson is confessing he does not know the difference between the meanings of simply English words such as “likely” and “possible”, he should be honourable enough to tender an apology to the American Ambassador for the rubbish he filed over AFP.


I am not holding my breath in expectation of an apology from Umaru Fofana as he does not have the moral and ethical make-up to issue out such an apology for his misleading front page headline rubbish!

Going back to Rod McJohnson, he seems to be more concerned with the outing of his dual role as AFP correspondent and IMC Chairman that with accepting his terrible journalism he passed off to his AFP principals. Or should I say triple role as AFP, IMC and Awoko contributor? Rod McJohnson is AFP Journalist, he is IMC Chairman and he is an Awoko Newspaper regular columnist!


A Media Regulator Chairman is a very active part & parcel of the media he is regulating! Unbelievable! How can he regulate himself? This man should resign. 


It is only in Sierra Leone that our government has allowed all kinds of rubbish like this to happen!


The fact that these so-called journalism ‘leaders’ have put their feet in their mouths in misquoting the American Ambassador and sparking off the chain of reaction that have brought this matter to local and international diplomatic embarrassment it has arrived at, speaks volumes about how such misguided journalism can set a country aflame.


If we are not careful, likes of Umaru Fofana and Rod McJohnson with their shameful journalism, might create problems in these elections. The irony is, they both (Umaru & Pa McJohnson) claim to be standing on the moral high ground when in reality they are slipping into oblivion of their self-created morass. History will be unkind to them!


Now, if only Rod MacJohnson was not the most mis-fitted chairman of Sierra Leone’s Independent Media Commission, I would have called for the IMC to reprimand him for such unprofessional and unethical misquoting of the American Ambassador which he did in his AFP news dispatch. However, since, for now, he remains as the IMC Chair, I guess we all should suffer the nonsense they call journalism in our midst where they misquote the United States Ambassador willy nilly.


Or maybe someone should make a test case of reporting the IMC Chairman to the IMC Complaints Committee? That will be an interesting legal event; akin to the one currently playing out at the Law Courts between this newspaper and the incompetent duds at the IMC!


We have reproduced the image of the first paragraph of the unfortunate AFP article published the around the world, where the title includes “likely” which is not reflected in the story. We have also reproduced the front page and inside coverage of the report inside POLITICO. Both of them are a big shame to journalism credentials which these two men boast of. Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame upon Umaru Fofana! Shame upon Rod McJohnson! They practise such shameful journalism! Shame! Shame! Shame!

Good day dear readers!



PS: Meanwhile, U.S. Embassy might wish to pay close attention to motives of local staff they have employed as their ‘Advisers’ in field of local politics.

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

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