From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Fugitive Because of Arabella?
May 13, 2009, 17:36

This desk was prompted to write this piece as a result of widespread rumours that was making the rounds late yesterday that the Publisher and Acting Editor of the Awareness Times Newspaper, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and Abdul Karim Kabia respectively, have been arrested and whisked to police cells. As will be evident in this piece, it is no doubt that both the Publisher and her Acting Editor are safe and are breathing fresh natural air, with no threat of insecurity, as far as the resolve of this newspaper, towards exposing the ills of society is concerned.

To the issue that sparked the wide speculations of arrest yesterday, a battery of police personnel, claded in civilian outfit, stormed the 17 Garrison Street offices of the Awareness Times demanding to see the Editor. This incident occurred at around 4:30pm in the afternoon of Tuesday 12th May 2009. As at time of going to press, the exact reason behind the demand of the Editor and Publisher of the newspaper cannot be established, though indications are ripe that the incident cannot be isolated from an article published by this medium on the day in question. The aforesaid article exposed the behaviours of one Arabella Foray, who is allegedly painting a false image of herself as being the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Less to transgress, at the offices of the Awareness Times yesterday afternoon; the civilian claded Police officers met one of the staff of the institution at the entrance. The officers demanded that they were at the office to see the Editor. The staff identified himself as the Personal Assistant to the Editor, and queried as to why the men wanted to see the Editor. The officers reluctantly refused to identify themselves as police officers, but rather hid their identities remaining to be ordinary citizens. Though Abdul Karim Kabia was in the office busy putting final modalities in place for the next publication, the manner in which the officers were acting ignited suspicion and fear in the staff, and as a result refused granting access to the unidentified men to see his Editor, more especially when it was around 4:30 when the Editor only sees people on appointments due to his busy workload. He (Staff) insisted that the guests be properly identified before further comment could be made about the Editorís location. At this point, the men commented on what could only be understood by the staff as a riddle, as they say "We are storytellers like you journalists". Due to their insistence of not introducing themselves properly, the staff told them that the Editor was not around.

All this happened without the knowing of this desk, who later left the office to honour an official appointment that was slated for 4:45pm. Thirty (30) minutes later, I received a telephone call from one of the Secretaries, informing me that some policemen; from the CID attached to the Major Incidence Support Team (MIST), have been in the office for the past forty five minutes, and are demanding to see me. Later, I was told they have produced a search warrant, to search the office for materials relating to the publication of the faked First Lady. I wasted no time at this point to telephone my boss, Dr. Sylvia Blyden, informing her of the occurrence. She then ordered that the men be granted permission to go ahead with the dictates of their warrant. The officers were said to have searched every corner of the Awareness Times, starting from my office to the admin office, to the toilet and on to the dustbin. Since their search yielded no dividend, they insisted on taking along the Editor to the CID Headquarters. Since I was not around, they attempted to forcefully arrest the Account Clerk, Abubakarr Kamara. The reason given by them was that he is the Admin Officer and therefore party to the publication. This was also brought to my attention and that of the Publisher, and we wasted no time in contacting the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Umaru Fofana, for his intervention. To his credit, Umaru Fofanaís prompt intervention was able to avert molestation on the Account Clerk as the CID officers were so determined. Mr. Fofana succeeded in securing the release of the Account Clerk.

On another doubtful note, during the process, I also contacted a senior colleague, Mr. Sitta Turay, the Editor-in-Chief of the New People Newspaper, in order for him to go to the Awareness Times and see what was going on. Surprisingly, Mr. Turay informed me that his office was also under serious surveillance, as he earlier received an intelligence that he was going to be arrested either legitimately or illegitimately, for intending to publish names of Girlfriends of senior state functionaries. He told me that two men believed to be associated with State House Close Protection Unit to the President, materialized in front of his office with a car. He said the number gradually increased to about seven as he continued to monitor the scene. He said it was at this point that he raised the alarm and told one of them that he is very well aware of their mission. He further told them that they will not succeed and later left his office.

However, whether or not this occurrence was masterly planned to dampen our spirits of exposing the excesses of the government without fear or favour, the Editorial Team remains steadfast, unfettered, resolved and fearless in highlighting these issues.

Dr. Sylvia Blyden and Abdul Karim Kabia have no reason to become fugitives, as they still continue normal office schedules with all commitment to their course. We stand willing to honour any legitimate invitation from the police, as we are peaceful citizens, and have no course to become fugitives. To further explain this, the Editorial Team will want Sierra Leoneans to know that the search warrant that was issued yesterday did not demand arrest if nothing wanting is found in the offices. Nothing was found in the offices of the Awareness Times by the MIST officers.

Look at me seated at my Garrison Street office, am I so small that I cannot be seen by the MIST officers?

Thank God.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.