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SLAJ condemns police harassment of journalist

SLAJ condemns police harassment of journalist

Freetown – The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) wishes to express its utter consternation and indignation at the behaviour of some policemen against journalist Ibrahim Samura, editor of the Freetown-based daily Satellite Newspaper.

In his letter of complaint, Mr Samura says that on Wednesday 2 January 2013 four plain-clothed police officers, led by Superintendent Samuel Kargbo, accosted him and attempted to arrest him right in the premises of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) just as he was walking out of their studios where he had been a guest on a TV programme, PRESS REVIEW. This has been corroborated by other sources SLAJ contacted.

The police said that they had received instructions from the Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu to arrest him because he was clad in a shirt that looked like a police uniform.

“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”, says SLAJ President, Umaru Fofana.

Another team of uniformed men was also waiting with cameras to apprehend the journalist giving us the impression that it was a premeditated attempt to intimidate and cow the journalist. We urge the leadership of the SLP to treat journalists with the respect and civility they deserve.

SLAJ is 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.

The history of the relationship between journalists and the Sierra Leone Police is replete with heavy-handedness and cover-up on the part of the force. In September 2011 four journalists were beaten up, one into coma, at the National Stadium in Freetown by policemen on the presidential bodyguard and no action has been taken against them to date. Despite efforts to get their names and press charges against them in court, the police leadership would not cooperate.

In December 2010 four journalists working for independent newspapers in Freetown were arrested by police detectives on the orders of a government minister, as they were investigating suspected fraud in the lands ministry.

A few days later, and on the orders of another government minister, police officers arrested and locked up two journalists and beat up another in the southern city of Bo.

Previous to that police had gone to the northern city of Makeni and arrested a journalist at his radio station, at night, on trumped up charges and took him to Freetown where he was locked up in a smelly cell. The matter was challenged by SLAJ and a police tribunal investigated it and convicted all policemen. They were only fined a ridiculous amount which SLAJ condemned and refused to accept.

The SLP must redeem their reputation by acting responsibly and respectably and treating members of the public, especially journalists, with civility.

SLAJ, Freetown

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