Al-Jazeera must have been excited when it deployed the services of Sierra Leonean born videographer, Sorious Samura, who may have promised to deliver a fascinating insight on illegal timber logging in the West African Country. After watching the so-called documentary on Al-Jazeera, I can only conclude that with all the fuss about Samura being a credible reporter, there was sufficient evidence to the contrary in the reporting. Evidence that questions the granting of an EMMY Award to one of Samura’s documentaries; as I don’t personally recognise any extraordinary talent in this journalist who has been used before by Channel 4 in the UK and most recently CNN in the U.S. For any credible news media to hire the services of a videographer/reporter to embark on an investigation on their behalf, they need to ensure that person knows what they are doing and are capable of pulling it off without any controversy. The documentary had no proper sequence and no fine directing. It was a bungled affair that lacks the professionalism that one will want to associate with a credible media entity like Al-Jazeera. In fact, it was shambolic. Samura started with an introduction of the mission he was embarking on looking shabby as usual, with an unkept appearance that begs for immediate grooming attention. Maybe it is Al-Jazeera’s habit of hiring scruffy-looking individuals to go underground and do their dirty work for them.
The manner in which the investigation was carried out raises serious questions of incompetence about Al-Jazeera. As a major news organisation, when you embark on an investigation of this magnitude, that has the potential to destroy a country’s image, you must tread carefully and get all the facts right from the onset. I wonder who the producers were of this inadequate attempt to expose anomaly in Sierra Leone’s timber industry. Al-Jazeera must hang its head in shame for approving and implementing such a derelict approach to investigative reporting. It is simply not how it is done!! But it seems Samura’s interest was not geared towards exposing corruption. He wanted to make a name for himself, maybe securing a good bank balance, and destroying the name of his homeland. It is indeed disgraceful, shameful and embarrassing, that a Sierra Leomean would even embark on a venture to tarnish the good name of his country and that of his government. It would have lent some credence to Samura’s reputation, if he had invested his time discovering the fantastic work the government of Sierra Leone is doing to lift our country out of its poverty-stricken state, by showcasing the amazing development strides and the overhaul of our economic and social circumstances. It would have earned him more praise in his hometown, if he had spent a day documenting how the Head of State and his government have taken on the ills of society and challenging the economic destruction inflicted by the previous SLPP government!
But alas, Samura was more concerned about the possibility of winning another Emmy award against the backdrop of dishing garbage to unsuspecting Al-Jazeera viewers about the country where he was born and bred. If Sorious Samura is a professional journalist as he purports to be, he would have been mindful of the ramifications of his apparent bungled investigation. He would have been aware of the damage he was going to inflict on a country that has just come out of a brutal civil war and is still finding its feet on the ground. Samura’s actions has the potential to deprive Sierra Leone of important foreign assistance, as his rather awkward reporting could have been used as a yardstick, and determinant, to curtail the amount of much-needed aid coming into the country. But the adrenalin rush to be recognised as a talented videographer must have interfered with his judgement and sense of discernment. There is nothing wrong with investigating corruption in your own country, but there is something extremely disturbing if the reason for doing so may have nothing to do with changing the way things are done, or influencing an attitudinal and behavioural change; Samura’s intent may also have been clear, he knew the controversy may earn him attention, and probably more credibility that would ensure top media houses like CNN would continue to demand for his services, thus ensuring a continuous flow of cash.
There is an apparent risk that Samura’s reputation may now be in tatters. There are reports coming out of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, that a video does exist that exposes Samura’s ulterior motive. The video is said to reveal that there was no cash transaction inside the office of Vice-President Sam-Sumana. If this is true, then Al-Jazeera should be taken to task; and Sorious Samura will have serious questions to answer to authorities in Sierra Leone. It is interesting to note that Samura left the shores of Sierra Leone just before the documentary was aired. Does this in itself reveal a nasty agenda, wilfully executed to cause the maximum amount of damage? What does Samura hope to gain from destroying the hard-earned image of his country? Was it just for financial gain? Or was Samura’s services secured by a disgruntled opposition party, hell-bent on making political capital out of this? In light of this serious blunder, there may be sufficient reasons to revisit Samura’s past works, and his own record as a qualified journalist, and implore on those who had hired his services in the past, to ensure that he did not distort facts that were in the past presented as credible reporting.
The tables are about to be turned, as Samura himself might face an investigation. The damage already done to our country’s image is incomprehensible. And Samura should understand that the consequences of his actions may now come and hunt him as there are people who are determined to uncover the truth about the real Sorious Samura!!
First published on Newstime Africa: Nov 25, 2011
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