The 16 million leones fine levied on the Independent Observer newspaper for trying to damage my name and that of Dr. Sylvia Blyden is hefty and will hurt the paper’s coffers. Even if there are corrupt SLPP members using the paper as a front to write false stories against government officials and supporters of the ruling APC, and even if these corrupt opposition politicians will dip into their pockets to help the paper pay the fine, it will still hurt to have to pay $ 3, 300 on foolishness . In these days of Ebola and economic hard times, such a huge sum should not be spent on accursed preoccupations like fines for uncivilized behaviour.
IMC CHAIRMAN AMBASSADOR ALLIEU KANU : NO-NONSENSE MAN
Secondly, after all his fake bravado in his second publication, it will be humiliating for Mr. Jonathan Leigh to now have to write shameful letters of apology to me and Dr. Blyden. Thirdly, no newspaper worth is salt loves to eat crow or humble pie and write a retraction of a false story. The damage to the paper’s credibility and respect are incalculable. Fourthly, the fact that the paper was found guilty of all five counts including the most important area of accuracy, which proved that the paper lied, is refreshing to me because my main concern in this issue was the falsity of the story.
The fine should have been higher as many decent people are saying but at least we have been vindicated, which is very important. Also, a precedent has now been set and newspaper editors now know that they will be held accountable for smear campaigns against innocent persons.
The fact that somebody owns a newspaper does not grant him the right to sit down and deliberately fabricate stories against innocent persons just because they are jealous of them or because they have political disagreements with them. The foundations of our civilization will be destroyed and cast in the putrid sewers if we were to allow every nincompoop with a pen or computer to damage the good names of other people at their whim .
The report in the INDEPENDENT OBERVER about a sexual relationship between me and Dr. Sylvia Blyden was absolutely false and completely shocking and misleading. There was no reason for Mr. Jonathan Leigh to have sought to drag our names in the mud because of a long-running and bitter disagreement between him and Dr. Sylvia Blyden.
I also understand the outrage SLPP supporters have for some of us who propagate and promote the activities and achievements of the APC Government but that does not give them any licence to lash back at us by concocting woeful stories against us. Political issues need not be settled by defamation and character -assassination. Decent and civilized people living in a civilized society resolve political disagreements through dialogue and consensus but when you have a society that allows every waif , urchin and vermin to operate a newspaper or step into the political arena , this is what you get.
However, by hitting Mr. Jonathan Leigh with such a hefty actions , the Independent Media Commission ( IMC ) has sent a very strong message to media proprietors , editors and journalists that gutter journalism, vendettas and blackmail will not be tolerated in Sierra Leone. Newspapers like the Independent Observer mirror everything that is wrong with Sierra Leone.
Mr. Leigh should have known that the forum posts were false and the work of mischief-makers. If he had taken his time to crosscheck the story, he would have learnt a number of interesting things. Firstly, the IP numbers of the offensive posts , which are traced to North Carolina, did not belong to Dr. Blyden. He would have known the posts were made by a mischief maker impersonating Dr. Blyden. The mischief-maker had been posting under his real name before he chose to post under the name of Dr. Sylvia Blyden , foolishly failing to realize that forums store the IP numbers of these posts.By scrolling down those archives, he would have seen who was using the IP number . It was quite easy to find out from the IP number of the culprit in his original posts in which he used his real name and in the posts in which he impersonated Dr. Blyden that it was sheer mischief and that Sylvia Blyden did not post the confession Leigh published as truth.
If Mr. Leigh had investigated further, he would have known that the man who transferred the posts from the forum to FACEBOOK was one of the very frustrated former supporters of the APC who has been lambasting the Government for failing to give him a job. He had wanted to be appointed Minister of Health and Sanitation . He had in fact told people that after the 2012 elections, he would be the next Minister of Health. Many of these frustrated and disgruntled guys are taking out their anger on me because they complain that I continue to promote the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma. They say that The frustrated former APC supporter, whom I plan to take legal actions against next , transferred the post to Facebook to embarrass me. I was his target , but incidentally, a Maada Bio supporter in Britain who has an ax to grind with Sylvia Blyden saw it as a golden opportunity to pay back old scores and sent it to Leigh for publication. With crosschecking, Leigh went on to publish the post as truth, which is a no-no in ethical journalism.
Journalists and forum owners need to be careful that they do not get caught up in the bitter animosities going on behind the scenes between people . There are lots of things going on –Lots of malice, envy, jealousy and bitterness , all for personal, selfish reasons –and journalists should be careful that they are not used by jealous, envious and unscrupulous persons to fight their battles. Cowardly persons who do not have the fortitude to confront those they have ought with will always seek to use journalists to do battle for them.
I am delighted that Mr.Leigh was found guilty on all five counts and hit with such a heavy fine. Thanks to the IMC for cracking down on sewer journalism.
But the matter is not over yet. Facebook participants and forum owners in the U.S. need to be taught a lesson as well. Law suits targeting some of them follow next , so tighten your safety belts, folks.
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