20 February 2013

Sierra Leone Alert - Police Assault Journalist

press release

Elkass Sannoh, reporter with African Young Voices (AVY), a privately-owned Freetown-based newspaper was on February 6, 2013 roughed up by a group of Police officers drawn from the Sierra Leonean Police Service (SLPS) at Freetown, the capital.

The assault on the journalist left him with damaged equipment including his camera and an amount of USD400 missing.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent, the journalist met his ordeal when he chanced upon the police officers together with some Court bailiffs carrying out an eviction order at 56 Upper Waterloo Street, Freetown.

According to the correspondent, Sannoh upon arrival at the scene introduced himself to ASP Murana Kamara, the officer-in-charge, who asked the journalist to leave the scene as his presence was not needed.

Sannoh, surprised at the way and manner with which the police were throwing out valuable properties belonging to the residents, inquired from ASP Kamara, whether it was right for the police to be involved in throwing away people's property when they were supposed to protect life and property.

According to the correspondent, Sannoh realizing the ASP's refusal to answer his question brought out his camera to take shots of events as they unfolded. This act apparently angered the ASP who ordered his men to seize his camera and his mobile phone.

In the heat of the scuffle, a police officer who boldly declared his number as 9007 threatened the journalist that he would have dealt with him (Sannoh) fatally if he was not in uniform.

The MFWA has consistently condemned such unprofessional acts by the Police and calls for immediate actions against the officers who carried out this assault.

We continue to urge the hierarchy of the SLPS and the Independent Media Commission (IMC) to take urgent steps to improve the relationship between the service and journalists, which for many years has been plagued with series of confrontations.

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