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SLPP Govt Sacks Journalist of 26 Years Service for Mere Praise of APC Officials!

SLPP Govt Sacks Journalist of 26 Years Service for Mere Praise of APC Officials!

The SLPP govt, by remote control, has sacked a Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation staff member of 26 years service for merely praising former govt officials. (Photo: Claudius Beckley, courtesy of Cocorioko)

Twenty-six years of dedicated public service has gone down the drain within a click of a laptop for a very ridiculous reason machinated by the ruling government of President Julius Maada Bio. When a country like Sierra Leone behaves like communist China, then you know democracy is as good as dead. This was what unfolded over the weekend when a popular broadcast journalist Mr Claudius Beckley was dismissed for merely lavishing praise or two on former government officials of the main opposition APC party.

Political observers in and outside Sierra Leone could not believe their eyes after reading the sacking of journalist Claudius Beckley of 26 years service for putting on his Facebook page few postings praising former government officials, which the intolerable SLPP government did not take up to too kindly. Without a doubt, his termination was politically motivated.

President Bio is championing a so-called democratic government that wants every citizen to trumpet good things about them, whether they are siphoning public finances for their own selfish gains or are trampling upon the human rights of its citizens and so forth. Any form of praise on the last APC government is taken as a ‘treasonable’ offence by the ruling SLPP government under Maada Bio. This is not a democracy.

Twenty-six years of SLBC service has ended so painfully for Claudius Beckley and his family who depended on the job. It is dictatorial and autocratic to govern a country in this way. Under the SLPP today, Sierra Leoneans have no personal views on government affairs. Citizens should merely ‘Go with the Flow’ by blindly supporting the governors whether they are doing the right things or not. Freedom of expression, inalienable rights in the Sierra Leone Constitution, is sadly not entertained under the Maada Bio presidency.

Claudius Beckley’s 26 years of excellent service at the SLBC means nothing to this government. For merely posting factual riddles or parables on his Facebook page where he sometimes praises former government officials is not sufficient proof to warrant any employer to dismiss an employee. But these are not normal times in the country today. The government sees Mr Beckley’s Facebook postings as a threat in their fight to improve the government’s national and international reputation. When has praise-singing become a crime in Sierra Leone?

What is intriguing about this issue is the fact that the government could not show any proof to prove that Mr Claudius Beckley had opposed or criticised the SLPP government. Nothing. Zilch. He was merely exercising his constitutional rights and duties as a citizen of Sierra Leone to levy intermittent praises on some past government officials. Is that a crime now? (Photo: SLBC Managing Director Joseph Kapuwa, the errand boy).

The SLBC Managing Director Mr Joseph Egbenda Simon Kapuwa, a Barrister and Solicitor of the Superior Court of Judicature in Sierra Leone, was appointed by President Bio. Mr Kapuwa is noted for listening only to the government that gave him the job. Last year, he was not even brave enough to make a public statement to condemn the beating of one of his staff by security personnel. His silence was to make President Bio happy. Mr Kapuwa’s political interest at the SLBC far outweighs the welfare of his workers. Even though Mr Kapuwa disagreed that “the welfare of my staff is important and that’s what we are pursuing, not shouting on rooftops,” keen observers believe he is just an errand boy who does not actually know the ethics of multimedia journalism.

Despite Beckley’s exemplary service at SLBC for 26 years, the remote-controlled Mr Kapuwa easily terminated Claudius Beckley’s contract after instructions from State House. Here is an excerpt from the termination letter: “It is noted that your persistent Facebook political posts with innuendoes understood to carry political designs have brought unbearable burden on the good image of the SLBC in so far as it strives to maintain objectivity, fairness and credibility in its work. The said conduct contravenes Clause 9.6 and 10.3.2 of the SLBC staff Manual.”

Contacting the distraught Claudius Beckley yesterday in Freetown, he said: “Termination is too harsh for a crime I didn’t understand I commit. SLBC said my postings on my Facebook page is bringing embarrassment to the institution. And praise-singing former government officials is caused for concern to them. But to be frank, because my postings are done in riddles, some people misinterpret it. Without asking me, some think it’s political.”

On Facebook yesterday Mr Claudius Beckley wrote: “Good morning from Gloucester Village. I actually want to express my sincere gratitude to the many words of consolation, calls, text messages and other means of communication I received from u. I really really appreciate all of u. Indeed after 26 years of dedicated service in that institution, so it all ended.

“Because of my riddle postings on my Facebook page, and praise-singing former officials, I got terminated. But to God be the glory.  I want to thank the Director-General and staff, for accepting my work with them over a period of time. We went through the good, the bad, and challenging times over the years. But we came out strong, by his grace. I want to thank colleagues for being there for me. I appreciate all of u. I love all of u and remain faithful to that institution. Have a blessed day. Stay home, stay safe,” the disappointed Claudius Beckley noted.

For a trivial issue like this, the shocked Claudius Beckley – after 26 years of selfless service to the public broadcaster – shouldn’t have been dismissed. He was not even warned about his Facebook postings, which should have been the proper thing to do. In a worse situation, normal employers would have suspended him without pay. That would have been at least bearable. But to sack him for triviality, it would surely have devastating effects on his person and his family at large who rely on him for their daily sustenance. (Photo: Information and Broadcasting Minister Mr Mohamed Rahman Swaray is suspected to have personally forced Kapuwa to sack Claudius).

It remains to be seen what the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists SLAJ is going to do to help Claudius to find his feet again. Perhaps, the new vibrant SLAJ officials led by President Ahmed Sahid Nasralli and Secretary-General Asmieu Bah will be positively different from previous SLAJ executives of yesteryears who were clearly unhelpful to their colleagues in distress simply because they were bootlickers-in-Chief.

Sierra Leone Journalist Sayoh Kamara Writes about his Own Bitter Experiences Under the SLPP Govt

I want to express my sympathy to Claudius Beckley for the unfortunate situation that has met him. This though is not the first. I am a victim of double tragedy in the hands of this SLPP Paopa administration.

And unfortunately, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist SLAJ with Kelvin Lewis as President, no other journalists took up my issue even when I personally took the matter to Kelvin, Umaru, Isaac, Sorie, Sheik, Jonathan, etc when I was hounded and hunted by a colleague Journalist, Asmaa James.

They sacked me at the Ministry of Finance rudely and unceremoniously and again as recently as December 2019, I was hounded and hunted by the same Asmaa James at NATCOM and I was sacked one month after my appointment.

There is so much bad blood today in the media and among journalists. I don’t think SLAJ can or will take up this. I am pessimistic out of my own experience. Individuals can raise up the issue in the SLAJ forum and we will certainly see reactions that may not suit our collective interest here.

By Abu Shaw in London (27/04/2020)

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