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Sam Sarr Reacts To Victor Ofuonye’s Attacks

Sam SarrDear Editor,
(Opinion) – Thank you for giving space to Victor to vent his anger against Foroyaa and the people he referred to as its “editorial leadership”. His opinions are noted and respected. His mission to cut Foroyaa down to size and contain its imagined air of invincibility and irreproachability is acknowledged.

Our only worry is that he is beginning to sound more like the politicians  he is condemning, and less like the professional journalist whose only aim is to defend the ethics of his profession and caution against its encroachment by people with vested interest who do not hesitate to alloy truth with ulterior motives in pursuit of ignoble ends. His own motive becomes more questionable when we observe that he copied his letter to two state house email addresses.

Secondly, it is not clear from his letter whether he was writing as a spokesperson of journalists, the Nigerian Community, or all those who hold Foroyaa in contempt. He wore three caps at the same time.

Let us start by saying that Foroyaa takes criticism as an ingredient for improved performance. The fact that someone who claims  to be a seasoned journalist  would put pen to paper to  attempt to dress down Foroyaa, confirms that Foroyaa’s opinion is authoritative enough to be a force of good or bad and cannot  be ignored or dismissed, but ought to be challenged and humbled  when necessary. This is the democratic spirit. Power needs to be checked and humbled, not glorified, deified and feared.Sam SarrSam Sarr

We have examined his open letter and have tried to understand his concerns. I have always said in my lectures to our reporters that the profession rests on three fundamental pillars, namely, the pursuit of truth in good faith, in furtherance of the welfare of a person or the public in general.
Let us now examine Victor’s contentions and gauge whether they could stand the litmus test of truth, clarity, good faith, public interest and professionalism.

First the headline reads:    “Foroyaa, Preaching Xenophobia in Style”

What is the meaning of Xenophobia? The Oxford dictionary meaning of Xenophobia reads: “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”

This is what Foroyaa published:

WAS THE VISIT OF THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA A STATE VISIT?

Foroyaa readers saw an elaborate advertisement from the Nigerian High Commission indicating that the Gambian Head of State would be hosting  the Nigerian Head of state and have been complaining, since they have not seen a word in the papers explaining the purpose of the visit and the outcome.

The Managing Editor of this paper had thought that since the advertisement came from the High Commission, and was published in the spirit of promoting African integration, the paper would have access to cover all the activities and inform our readers accordingly.

This paper however wishes to apologize to our readership that despite the unconventional advertisement which departed from  Foroyaa’s  policy of not publishing posters that do not tell stories to avoid building personality cults, our reporters could not have access to the venues graced by the two heads of state and have not received a copy of any communiqué issued by the two heads of state.

We had assumed that the issue about Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth would have featured prominently in the discussion and communiqué.

The visit has passed off with little information divulged to the public. We hope the Nigerian High Commission would not be offended if we fail to publish such advertisement in the future to avoid wetting the appetite of our readers only to come up with empty hands. The public is still asking: What was the visit for and what has it achieved? We are still searching for answers.

Could Victor outline what depicts intense and irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries, in this case Nigeria and Nigerians, in the article above?

Has he therefore shown that he understands the meaning of Xenophobia? Should a person who is intellectually mature not choose the right words to communicate his opinion with clarity? The answer should be in the affirmative. Has Victor demonstrated clarity in the use of the word xenophobia? The answer is in the negative. Is he qualified to take the arrogant posture of accusing Foroyaa of “chronic linguistic deficiencies as manifested by disjointed sentences, dangling modifiers, ungrammatical and inappropriate lexical usages are a mental poison to our impressionable children?” Certainly not! He might have avoided the errors he made had he found time to read over what he might have hastily written.

VictorVictor OfuonyeFurthermore, who harbours intense dislike and hatred for whom? Is it not Victor who has chosen to be the self appointed spokespersons of all Nigerians in the Gambia and sunken into the abyss of narrow nationalist sentiments alloyed by a demagogy that befits only bigots. We challenge him to write back and quote anything we have written that betrays a xenophobic psyche. If he fails to do so, then he should be rightly accused of betraying his own psychological state of mind to the people. Only a narrow nationalist bigot could spend hours searching in the dictionary for derogatory words to use against people who have spent all their lives promoting the unification of a continent so that her sovereign peoples could live in liberty, dignity and prosperity.

Let us move to the facts.  Victor wrote “the managing editor and his reporters the xenophobic editorial claimed they were denied access to the venues graced by the two heads of state and have not received any communiqué issued by the two heads of state.

“The managing editor of Foroyaa and Musa Jallow need be reminded that basic journalism teaches that the visit of any head of state is news and should be covered as same. Neither the managing editor nor his team of reporters made any attempt to visit any of the venues in the said advertorial  carried by their paper in respect to the Visit of President Goodluck Jonathan.”

Does this allegation stand the test of truth?  The reporter that was assigned to give coverage to the visit is Saikou Suwareh Jabai. He gave this report to the Managing Editor:

I arrived at the airport at 4 p.m. I was standing alongside GRTS and other journalists. When it was time to enter the welcoming lounge, other journalists were allowed in but I was stopped by a security personnel who asked for my identity. I showed him my press card and the letter of invitation from the Nigerian High Commission. He looked at them and asked me to step back. I asked him why but he would not explain. I stood there for a while and then approached another security personnel who also asked me to step back. President Jammeh arrived at 5.30 p.m. and President Goodluck Jonathan arrived at 6 p.m. I returned home without access.

The following morning I went to cover the official opening of the new Nigerian High Commission. I saw some police, PIU, and other security units at the main gate and when I approached them, they directed me to another gate manned by plain clothed officers. I showed them my documents and explained my mission but I was refused entry. I rang the number 7868971 of an official of the Nigerian High Commission (name withheld) whom I had communicated with before the commencement of the programme, but she did not pick the call. I stood outside till the end of the programme and entered to get information from Nigerian officials, but I was told that all the top officials had gone with the presidents to state house. So I went back home. “

I as Managing Editor made a request to have an interview with President Goodluck Jonathan but that was not possible. I personally went all the way to the Nigeria High Commission to convey the developments and we reached an understanding on the matter. Let me add that Foroyaa emerged as an alternative media outlet to that of the state because of exclusion since the first Republic and the situation remains the same in the second Republic. Hence unless instructions are given at gates security personnel do not readily provide access to our reporters.

Victor said “No journalist worth his or salt acts on assumption – it runs counter to the canons of good journalism.”

It is very clear that Victor did not do any investigation before drawing conclusion on Foroyaa’s lack of coverage of the event. He committed the sin of relying on assumption instead of facts to cast aspersions against Foroyaa. He is guilty of violating the very cannons he has highlighted as the pillars of good practice.

Victor added: “A managing editor who twists facts to serve a hidden agenda is not only a discredit to the journalism profession but also a danger to society.”

Here it appears very clearly that it is Victor who twisted the facts and his hidden agenda is no longer hidden when he copied his letter to the state house buttressed by the following Innuendo.

“It is no surprise that when politicians keep masquerading as journalists, ethical journalism is thrown to the dogs. Xenophobia or stoking the embers of hate against another country has no basis in journalism and must be condemned by all right thinking individuals.”

Here it is clear that Victor is no longer talking about journalism. He is directing anger against political figures he holds in contempt and wishes to discredit by twisting the facts. He has conjured in his brain fantasies which has led him to attribute to Foroyaa, its Managing Editor and advisers what is a figment of his imagination and then drove himself into a state of temper tantrum and hysteria, hurling insults and condemnations  as if he is fighting the devil incarnate. In this respect, he has failed the test of both truth and good faith.

Let us move to the third point.

Victor wrote:
“The Gambia and Nigeria are both independent sovereign states, the Nigerian President,  Forayaa must be reminded is not an emissary of the Commonwealth and if Forayaa so cherishes membership of the Commonwealth, there is the National Assembly of The Gambia for it to channel its grievances to.

“In all the epistles that we have all been accustomed to with the Forayaa on various issues, we are yet to see one addressed to the National Assembly in respect to The Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, I would like Foroyaa since they have mentioned it in the editorial as their grouse, to explain to their readers what actions they have or had taken in respect to the issue. As the ethics of journalism dictate, I have copied the managing editor of Forayaa this response and challenge him to publish same with equal prominence as that given to his editorial.”

“Credible papers around the world have a letter to the editor column where opinions of readers are published. Foroyaa should lead by example by being transparent and open rather than conjuring up some imaginary readers whom nobody except only the managing editor knows about. Oh, Foroyaa, practise what you preach.”

Victor claims that President Jonathan should not be an emissary of the Commonwealth. Who is indeed undermining the integrity of the Nigerian state? Every Gambian knows that President Obasanjo did come to the Gambia and brokered an agreement between the opposition and Government under the auspices of the Commonwealth. This is because Nigeria is seen as the most populous state in Africa with a population of 170 million. One out of every six Africans is a Nigerian. All Gambians who follow National news must have heard the statement from the state house indicating that some envoys were to be sent to discuss the withdrawal from the commonwealth but that The Gambia would not budge from its position. Victor claimed that as long as letters to the editor had not been written, the Managing Editor was doctoring opinions to be enabled to take an editorial position.

Those who have elementary knowledge of International relations know that heads of state do carry out many missions when they travel from one country to the other. Obasanjo’s visit to the Gambia in 2006 was just one such example. Hence it was not out of the ordinary for many readers to debate on what President Jonathan would raise when he meets President Jammeh. Here again Victor has displayed his lack of adherence to an ethical principle – public interest. How could Victor promote Nigerian public interest when he cannot differentiate which Gambians are out to promote and defend the integrity and interests of the Nigerian Nation and people as part and parcel of the African Nation and people.

In my view any young man who insults elders is a disgrace to his community.

Interestingly enough, Victor again exposed his narrow nationalist mentality by claiming that the matter of the Commonwealth is for the National Assembly of the Gambia and Nigeria has nothing to do with it. He even called on Foroyaa to write a letter to the National Assembly. Credible papers have their editorials as the space that editors utilize to speak their minds on any issue in the globe.  Credible papers are social media outlets. They do not only wait for letters to reach them. They go out to contact people to get their opinions. Credible papers interact with people through their reporters, vendors and daily visitors. Credible Managing editors take time to talk to their reporters, visitors and vendors to know what the readers consider to be the burning issues of the day in order to prepare a work plan for the next day and give assignments accordingly.  Credible Managing editors must know what the readers want to read from the vendors and reporters and what they found missing. Victor used to publish a Mag
azine which I have not seen in the news-stand for a long time now. He has very little experience in running a successful media house and does not know how information is tapped from a myriad of sources different from letters to the editor.  His arrogance is just disguised ignorance. His pompous display of verbosity amounts to nothing but an attempt to cover up his emptiness.

This is manifested by his recommendation for Foroyaa to write to the National Assembly on the issue of the Commonwealth. No seasoned journalist would make such a recommendation. Foroyaa speaks to all through its editorial. Letters are written by political parties and Foroyaa serves as an outlet for them by amplifying their concerns. In short, the Views of President Jammeh and all the opposition parties on the subject have already been amplified by Foroyaa. What more does Victor want from Foroyaa? A newspaper is nothing more than the amplifier of voices in the public domain.

Finally Victor wrote:
“The managing editor’s claim that his paper accepted the Jonathan advert from the Nigeria High Commission in the spirit of “pan-Africanism” in spite of its purportedly avowed stance against promoting a “personality cult” is, for the sake of a better word, a lie. This cynical afterthought rationalization is face-saving rhetoric. The plain truth is that he accepted the advert in the spirit of commercialism, to shore up his paper’s rapidly dwindling revenue.

“Moreover, if the managing editor of Foroyaa had known the meaning of the noun phrase personality cult, he would not have used it at all because the editorial leadership of Foroyaa is the worst culprit of that failing.”

I have written that Foroyaa does not publish as advertisement posters that tell no story but are simply meant to promote a personality to avoid promoting personality cult.  

Victor has not provided any evidence of any poster published in Foroyaa to promote a personality. Accusing the editorial leadership of being the worst culprit without giving examples of how this is the case, only buttresses that he is a contemptuous bigot. Foroyaa has never published any poster wishing happy birthday to any of its editorial leadership.

The reason why there is an editorial policy on this is simple: If Foroyaa publishes the photograph of the leader of a ruling party wishing him or her happy birthday with all the pleasantries added, an Opposition leader would also request for the same treatment, where will it end?

We departed from this policy and published a poster to give respect to the visiting Nigerian president. This should be seen in a positive light by people who have good faith. However, a disrespectful narrow nationalist does not start from good faith. Those who harbour prejudice must harbour malice before thought. They are very brutal in their language and would be very brutal if they had daggers and guns in their hands.

Victor is entitled to hold the paper and its editorial leadership in contempt. Many hold us in high regard. This is the way of the world. Some would hate you and others would love you. What he has no right to do is to bend the truth to mislead public opinion. Deception is no longer possible.

Does Foroyaa have faults? We are trying to run a daily newspaper in addition to all our national responsibilities. It is a herculean editorial task and many things slip through the net. We don’t have to apologize. Our readers understand.
Written by Sam Sarr

Comments  

 
+3 #3 2013-11-27 01:36
I want to believe that Victor is after his selfish interest because copying the E-mail to state house shows that Victor is after something.... I think is good that Sam Sarr respond to this baseless attack on foroyaa. And also credit to Jollof news for publishing the respond of Sam Sarr because some online papers fail to publishes the respond after publishing victors attack on foroyaa....
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+5 #2 2013-11-26 23:46
Some Might say this was Mr Sarr's finest hour...but then he has had so many before.

I adore Gambian-ness when it is unleashed without prejudice. It can reduce a Lion to the size of a field mouse.. with a waft of a wizards wand.
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+2 #1 2013-11-26 23:34
The more i think about victor's rampage, the more i become suspicious.

Why would a foreign journalist, living in the most anti-press regime, malign the his most noble (host)colleague s? PDOIS through foroyaa, is a vigilant campaigner 4 human rights n injustices 4 all people.

8 years in the gambia is more than enough to inculcate in u those reprehensible sycophantic traits, that elevate unknown commodities like u, into prominent positions of chief justice.

To fellow journalist, this is the highest form of betrayal. I urge victor to pause n rethink this injurious scheme.
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