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IFJ Condemns ‘Bullying’ Behaviour against Journalists in Sierra Leone

IFJ Condemns ‘Bullying’ Behaviour against Journalists in Sierra Leone

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) yesterday condemned the arrest on 16 December of Mohamed Daramy, a radio presenter and Ibrahim Farmer, technician for KISS FM Radio in Bo, southern Sierra Leone by Police Assistant Inspector General (AIG) David Sesay who was acting on the order of Minister of Agriculture Dr Sam Sesay.

“We condemn these bullying behaviour and attempts by politicians to interfere in journalists’ affairs. Press freedom is a very strong component of democracy and must be respected by all,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office. “Public authorities must cease let journalists work safely and freely,” he added.

According to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), an IFJ Affiliate, on 16 December 2010, Mohamed Daramy and Ibrahim Farmer were arrested and detained overnight in a police cell, following an incident that saw the debate sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture discontinued for a pre-arranged radio programme paid for by the mobile phone company, Africell.

The minister had apparently paid for the debate broadcast but the radio station manager, Samuel Haffner said he was not aware of it. Shortly after 8:00 p.m. Haffner tuned in on the station and heard a different programme on air. He instructed the presenter to discontinue the programme for the prior arranged one from Africell. Once the programme was discontinued, Minister Sesay immediately called the AIG and ordered him to arrest the journalist and his technician and lock them up.

The SLAJ President, Umaru Fofana has described the minister’s action as “a gross abuse of power and a violation of the fundamental rights of the journalists by the minister who should have followed due process if he thought there was a breach of contract by the radio; rather than order the arrest of the innocent journalists”.

“Coming shortly after a similar incident, this is particularly worrisome especially because our police leadership seems to have sunken so low and palm-closed into the hands of the powers-that-be,” added the SLAJ President.

On 13 December, the new minister of land Allieu Pat Sowe ordered the police to arrest Abdul Rahman Kamara of Torchlight, Razrok Wurie of Satellite, Sheik Unisa Thoronka of Global Times and Alfred Koroma of African Champion, all of them journalists working for independent newspapers. They were released on bail on 14 December.

IFJ says these actions raise serious concerns for the independence of journalists in Sierra Leone and call on authorities in Sierra Leone to cease immediately all forms of intimidation and threats against journalists.

“The behaviour by ministers is unacceptable and undermines the Government’s claim to rule of law in Sierra Leone,” added M. Baglo.

International Federation of Journalists

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