Minister’s entourage attacked radio station, beat up staff
Bo, Southern Sierra Leone – One of the two staff of KISS FM Radio in Bo who were on Thursday arrested and detained by police on the orders of Minister of Agriculture Sam Sesay has told an emergency general meeting of journalists in the southern city that he was beaten up and harassed by people who were part of the minister’s entourage for stopping the minister’s radio discussion programme for an earlier-paid-for one.
Speaking at the meeting which was attended by the President of SLAJ, Umaru Fofana, who is in the town to sympathise with the journalists and to get first hand account of the situation, the radio station technician Ibrahim Farmer said he was slapped by one Mr Massaquoi who forced him to leave open the microphone fader in the studio. He said a woman who was also a part of the minister’s entourage asked him to sit on the floor which he refused to do, while the armed police bodyguard assigned to the minister stood in the doorway preventing him (the technician) from entering the studio once he had been forced out. “We were put under siege and even though not on the minister’s orders, he did not restrain them” Farmer told the SLAJ President in front of the SLAJ Regional Executive and other members.
The continuity announcer, Mohamed Daramy told the SLAJ President that he was slapped by a tall member of the minister’s entourage whose name he does not know but can identity him if he sees him. Daramy said they later heard the minister calling the Assistant Inspector General of Police for the region, David Sesay, who went and arrested them himself and locked them in a police cell.
Contrary to the minister’s assertion that he only called for the journalists to be called in to make a statement, the journalist and the technician spent the night in a police cell without being asked a question and statement was only obtained from them in the morning.
There was no record of any report having been made by the minister or anyone acting in his stead on Thursday, which clearly means that the regional police boss only acted on the minister’s orders on the phone to arrest the journalists who were only freed following a SLAJ Press Release had gone out and the intervention of the SLAJ Regional Chairman, Richard Margao.
Also contrary to the minister’s assertion that he had paid for the air time and had confirmed and reconfirmed it, the Station Manager and the Commercial Manager have both denied receiving any payment for the programme. Station Manager, Samuel Haffner said there was no record of payment for the said programme and that the ministry of agriculture in fact owed his station eight months in arrears for programmes aired. “They did not pay a single cent for the programme” he said, adding that he had instituted an investigation to ascertain how the minister’s programme happened in the first place.
“The actions of the agriculture minister and the regional police boss are abhorrent and apprehensible. They constitute an attack on the radio station, and are a clear breach of the fundamental rights and freedom of the staff of the radio which any decent society will investigate and punish the wrong-doers”, says SLAJ President Umaru Fofana.
They come three days after the minister of lands had also ordered the inspector general of police to arrest four journalists who were investigating an alleged fraud in the ministry.
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