11 January 2013

Sierra Leone: Security Officials Attempt to Arrest Journalist

press release

Ibrahim Samura, editor of privately-owned Freetown-based, the Satellite newspaper was on January 2, 2013 nearly arrested by a group of plain-clothes police officers drawn from the Sierra Leone Police Service (SLP), and led by Superintendent Samuel Kargbo.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent, the near-arrest on Samura occurred outside the studios of Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) after he had participated as a panellist on an SLBC's programme, Press Review.

According to the correspondent, the police explained that Francis Munu, the Inspector General of Police, gave the order for the journalist's arrest because he was clad in a shirt that looked like a police uniform.

However, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in a statement signed by its President, Umaru Fofana stated that "the instruction from the Inspector General, like the action of the plain-clothed policemen, was nothing short of harassment and intimidation to cow the journalist, an action that could have emanated from what the journalist might have written or said that the police deemed unpleasant."

"We are also saddened that the management of SLBC failed to protect the journalist who was their guest, by allowing the police to harass and embarrass him almost right inside their studios," SLAJ stated.

The MFWA urges senior officials of the SLP to as a matter of importance take critical steps to improve the relationship between the service and journalists which for many years has been plagued with series of confrontations.

In September 2011 four journalists were beaten up, one into coma, at the National Stadium in Freetown by policemen who were part of the presidential bodyguards and no action has been taken against them to date. Despite SLAJ's efforts to get the names of the policemen and press charges against them in court, the police leadership, reportedly, would not cooperate.

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