From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
Tony Blair Debacle: How Not to Discuss Issues
By Ernest B. Malamangor
May 4, 2010, 17:06

It is becoming increasingly clear that whenever Awareness Times publishes an article critical of the APC government, journalists supporting the government emerge from the wood works not to refute the criticisms with facts, but to attack the publisher of the newspaper whether or not she wrote the articles. Almost all APC leaning journalists are guilty of making up stories about Dr Blyden’s personal life, casting aspersions on her qualifications or attacking her family. What is more nauseating, these journalists accuse Dr Blyden as pseudo-journalist, yellow journalist or what have you. What is clear in my opinion is that these folks are guilty of the very accusation they make about Dr Blyden. Let me address some of the unfortunate arguments that one Ahmed Kamara has made in Newstime Africa which in my view is embarrassing to the profession of journalism.

Let’s take the most recent article published in Newstime Africa on the 1st of May by Ahmed Kamara titled "Sylvia Blyden’s mission to sabotage development in Sierra Leone". Readers were eager to read about the evidence Mr. Kamara had to show that Dr Blyden is actually on a mission to sabotage development in Sierra Leone. I must unfortunately admit that I was roundly disappointed as the article lacked substance as far as the title is concerned. It turned out that it was again an article of personal attacks. I am not sure that article would pass the smell test of journalism. The earlier article was published by Newstime Africa on the 30th of April titled "Dumped in Liberia…" my simple question is, what has that got to do with the articles written in Awareness Times? So what if she was dumped is that proof that her allegations are false? Ad hominem attacks are never the way to disprove an argument. What these attacks actually tell some of us on the sidelines is that the APC government is so worried about the revelations that they have to send their operatives to attack the personal lives of newspaper publishers.

Furthermore, it is the height of ignorance for Ahmed Kamara to say Sylvia is not a doctor because she is not practicing. Who ever told Mr. Kamara that one has to practice to be called a doctor? Serious journalists who want to prove whether Dr Blyden has a medical degree would go to university secretariat and see the graduation records. The records are clear that Sylvia Blyden graduated with first a BSc.(Honours) in Basic Medical Sciences in 1993 and later, an MBBS(an academic qualification placed much higher than an ordinary MD) in 1996 from the University of Sierra Leone. What I would like Mr. Kamara to do is compare his accomplishments with that of Dr. Blyden’s on a separate issue and not on the issue of whether Tony Blair is receiving money on false pretenses on behalf of Sierra Leone. Prove Awareness Times wrong for once because the character assassination is not working. It is also a shame that the Sierra Leone International Media Organization is getting involved in such a nonsensical personal vendetta.

Now to the real issue! What supporters of the APC government should be doing is showing evidence that Tony Blair is not using Sierra Leone for his personal profit. Even the British are now investigating the activities of Tony Blair. His organizations are suspected of dubious activities. If the organization operating in Sierra Leone is part of the British investigation, what is wrong with a local newspaper investigating allegations? The questions Mr. Ahmed Kamara should be trying to answer are whether in fact Tony Blair and the APC government failed to report the US$2.5m meant for Sierra Leone? What happened to the money? Was the money actually received by Tony Blair? Those are legitimate questions. The argument that Awareness Times is going after people who want to develop Sierra Leone is not only ludicrous, it is a reproduction of slave plantation mentality deposited in Sierra Leone’s development paradigm. Sierra Leone like other African countries have been exploited time without number in the name of "helping them develop". Colonization was justified by the British claiming a "civilizing mission"; and now Awareness Times should not ask Tony Blair to account for money meant for the country? This was exactly what Marley meant when he urged us; "emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds". Tony Blair is not beyond reproach and the attempt to browbeat Dr Blyden and Awareness Times into submission is selling out Sierra Leone. My advice to Newstime Africa and Ahmed Kamara is to provide us with counter evidence or spare us the personal lives of publishers as we are not interested.



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