From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
Sylvia Blyden Declines Solidarity Demo in Sierra Leone
By Bintu A Sesay & Aruna Turay
May 21, 2009, 17:24

The Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the leading and most widely circulated Newspaper in Sierra Leone, the Awareness Times Newspaper Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, yesterday Wednesday 20th May 2009, declined an offer by hundreds of her supporters including scores and scores of local journalists, who had all been ready to march with her from the Law Courts to her 17 Garrison Street offices (PZ Roundabout).

Supporters asking to Demo as Sylvia Blyden cautions them

Blyden explained in a soft tone of voice to her supporters, relatives, friends and local journalists that she did not want to be a pawn for any group of people who might be looking for an opportunity to create instability in the city by attacking such a public crowd of her well-wishers.

Sylvia Blyden cautions supporters

"There are violent people around who are looking for an opportunity to cause mayhem in the country. Let us not give them such an opportunity. Let us help His Excellency the President to keep the peace in Sierra Leone by shying away from anything that will provoke instability such as chanting in solidarity with me along Siaka Stevens Street," Blyden implored her supporters especially numerous youth groups who had been preparing to mobilize.

Prior to this, Blyden had been charged to Court to answer to a one count charge of publishing false statement contrary to Section 32(2) of the 1965 Public Order Act. According to the State Police, it was put to Dr. Sylvia Blyden that she was part of a Conspiracy aimed at getting the First Lady angry with the President and thus exposing the President to security threat.

"I am putting it to you that the article is an act of conspiracy to cause disaffection between the First Lady and His Excellency the President thereby disrupting the orderliness and well-being of their home and in the circumstances causing security threat to the well-being of His Excellency" were the words of the Police Investigators shortly before Sylvia Blyden was charged under Section 32(2).

Meanwhile, the application by Blyden’s lawyers for her to be granted bail was upheld and she was granted bail on her own recognition (self-bail) to which she walked out of the Law Courts to loud cheers but after which she declined to march along the streets in any solidarity march.

The matter comes up again tomorrow when the Director of Public Prosecution, O.V. Robbin Mason will do what he calls a ‘token start’. Blyden’s Editor, Abdul Karim Kabia, was not in court as he is currently ill and receiving treatment.

Prior to being charged to court, Sylvia Blyden had yesterday reported at the CID of the Sierra Leone Police to face questioning following which she was unexpectedly charged to court. As the news spread that she was in Court, throngs of citizens, youths and also scores of local journalists led by the SLAJ President, turned up in a show of solidarity.

For his part, the Lead Defense Counsel of a battery of some ten brilliant lawyers, Lawyer A.Y. Brewah applied for bail to be granted to the accused person on the account that she will not interfere with any prosecution witnesses, adding that his client is a resident of Freetown that owned a very large investment in and out of the city and assured the court that his client will not escape justice or court proceedings when ever she is needed to attend to it. He was supported by Lawyers like E.N.B. Ngakui, Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Bar Association as well as Lawyers H.M. Gevao, G.B Kanneh, A.K Musa, T Kelly, S.T.M Navo, and I.S Koroma

However Lead Prosecutor who was no less a person than the Director of Public Prosecution, O.V. Robbin Mason, Esq. backed by Lawyer Bintu Alhadi and Gerald Soyei vehemently objected to bail stating that there are certain aspect of this matter which are still been investigated and that if the accused person is granted bail, there are several chances that she might want to skip the country.

After listening to the two arguments, Presiding Magistrate Steven Conteh using his own discretion granted the accused person a self-bail and adjourned the matter to Thursday 21st May 2009. As soon as Sylvia Blyden stepped out of the Court Room, there was a huge roar of approval from the scores of journalists who had turned up in total solidarity with their colleague.

It was a cacophonic situation as numerous local and international journalists were present from the print and electronic media such as the British Broadcasting Service (BBC), United Nations Radio, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) Television and Radio, ABC-TV, Reuters, Associated Press, Africa News, Cotton Tree News, Radio Democracy 98.1, Believers Broadcasting Network (BBN), Sky Radio, Kaleone Radio, Christian Radio I AM, Radio Islam, Concord Times Newspaper, Premier Media, Awoko, African Champion, Exclusive, For-Di-People, New Vision, Spectator, Life Herald, Observer, Democrat, We-Yone, Salone Times, The Atomic, to name but a few. It should be noted that a handful of bitter journalists especially those working for the Presidential Press Secretary’s private newspaper as well as one or two from Standard Times, For-Di-People and Peep Magazine were easily noticed stepping out of the court in shame with their heads bowed low as if they were searching for a lost 1000 carat diamond (shame on you guys). However, it was clear that 99% of local Sierra Leonean journalists, including even some of the staff of Standard Times and For-Di-People (Editayo Temple for example) were in total solidarity with Sylvia Blyden as was even evidenced by the huge number of solidarity phone calls to the Courts by journalists in Makeni, Kenema, Bo and other provincial towns.

The matter comes up again

this morning.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.