By Sia Tamba –Simpson
Journalism is a profession or occupation that has no religious litmus test: Anyone can choose to be a journalist, and that includes Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, and Muslims. Generally, the role of journalists – be it a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, or Muslim – is to educate the public about events and issues and how they affect their lives. Considering the importance of such an assignment, journalists spend much of their time interviewing expert sources, searching public records and other sources for information, and sometimes visiting the scene where a crime or other newsworthy occurrence took place.
Journalists also report the facts irrespective of religion and social orientation. Most journalists around the world report stories about every religious group and religious leaders without facing any consequences, except in cases when such reports are reported against the Islam religion or a leader of Islam faith, which is, by far, one of the mainstream religions in the world.
That said, one cornerstone of anti-Muslim rhetoric is the claim that Islam fosters an abiding intolerance among its followers, including Muslim journalists such as one Mohamed K. Fofanah, a Sierra Leonean Muslim ‘journalist’ who runs an online and print newspaper called Glearner Sierra Leone.
Fofanah, in an anti-Catholic and Christian agenda, has engaged in reporting unfounded and non-investigative information about the leadership of the local Catholic Church in Sierra Leone based on hearsay and a blotch crusade. What is Fofanah’s intent, especially being a man who is ignorant of the Catholic Church, its structure, and faith?
Is Fofanah in a cohort and wants to play on falsehood, lies, and unsubstantiated allegations to damage the image of the Catholic Church and the Christian faith in Sierra Leone at the advantage of his Muslim faith, which is a minority group?
The desolate aspect of what Fofanah does is that, had a Christian journalist in Sierra Leone do that, he (Fofanah0 and other Muslims would have lined the streets with intolerance.
It is mind-blowing that while most dedicated Christians around the world and in Sierra Leone are rebuking the assertion of prominent (if controversial) commentators and academics who are advancing the idea that Muslims are inherently intolerant, a Muslim journalist like Fofanah is engaged in provocative declarations against the Catholic Church and its local leaders without elements of facts.
At times, even well-regarded authors who generally steer clear of such provocative declarations nonetheless see fit to contend that “[t]he modalities of Muslim intolerance inhabit theological, cultural, and ideological discourses whose roots penetrate deeply into the pre-modern Islamic past.”
What Fofanah is doing, the falsehood and character assassination he has engaged in does not only have a reason for sound legal ramifications and obligation (which of course the Church might seek after completion of consultations with its lawyers); it is a dangerous precedent. Had it been the other way around, and a Muslim leader or the Muslim faith was being disparaged in such a manner through baseless reporting, foul cry accusations of Islamophobia would have been the immediate charge.
Studies after studies conducted by Christian authors, researchers, and journalists have pointed out the role of the media in facilitating Islamophobia. According to Elizabeth Poole in the Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies, the media has been criticized for perpetuating Islamophobia. She cites a case study examining a sample of articles in the British press from between 1994 and 2004, which concluded that Muslim viewpoints were underrepresented and that issues involving Muslims usually depicted them in a negative light.
Such portrayals, according to Poole, include the depiction of Islam and Muslims as a threat to Western security and values. Benn and Jawad also write that hostility towards Islam and Muslims are “closely linked to media portrayals of Islam as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.”
But this is exactly what Mohammed Fofanah, a self-proclaimed Muslim journalist in Sierra Leone, is doing against the Catholic Church, and no Muslim has frowned on such erroneous, diabolical and deceptive reporting. Neither has any Catholic or Christian gone to chase out or threaten him as it would have been the case if a Christian journalist had penned such unfounded information against a leading Muslim Imam.
Journalism does not mean formatting lies and reporting misleading information without cause. It also does not mean reporting without investigating or obtaining facts from the other side or anyone accused or associated with the given information. It absolutely does not mean that journalists are above the law and/or cannot be held legally liable for character assassination. As a Catholic and a Christian, I urge the Catholic Church and all Catholic faithful as well as various Catholic lay groups to reflect on pursuing legal action against Mohamed K. Fofanah and the Gleaner Sierra Leone News Paper for defamation. Besides, since Fofanah knows something about the Catholic Church that most Catholics don’t know, a lawsuit will enable him to clarify what he knows.
About the Author
Ms. Sia Tamba –Simpson is a Sierra Leonean, educator, Christian, and businesswoman. Sia Tamba-Simpson on Facebook