“The action of those soldiers is totally unacceptable in a democratic state like Sierra Leone” SLAJ President Nasralla
By Alpha Kamara and Santigie Sesay-TVS News Washington
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has in strong terms condemned the soaring spate of attacks and assault of Journalists while carrying out their lawful duties in the country.
SLAJ-the official body established to advocate for the welfare and safety of journalists in Sierra Leone said in a press release issued on 4th July 2022 that they strongly condemn the alleged beating of one of its members; Maada Jessie Jengo who is working with community radio Voice of Peace and Development (VOPAD) broadcasting on FM 96.5 in Waterloo, Western Rural District.
According to the release, Maada who was a pillion on a commercial motorbike was heading to work while he was beaten mercilessly by some military personnel in the full view of the public on Saturday, July 2nd 2022 at an area called Five-Five fuel station in Waterloo. The bike, on which Maada was, ran by a black jeep with registration number ANK 156 carrying four military personnel including a top-ranking officer. The jeep, Maada added was parked right in the middle of the road thereby denying access to other road users of the narrow road.
“The bike rider and I spoke to them about the action of this stationary vehicle and within split seconds, the military personnel descended on us giving us the beating of our lives. The bike rider managed to escape leaving me at the mercy of the angry soldiers” Maada stated.
Maada, with blood oozing from his battered face says he was infuriated when he continuously pleaded with the soldiers to spare him but his cry was out rightly ignored. “I was appalled knowing fully well that these soldiers had recognized me to be a journalist yet, they did not mind.” he noted.
He added that in the process, the military personnel confiscated his journalist tools-voice recorder, mobile phone and others including the sum of One Million, Six Hundred Thousand Leones (old notes).
According to SLAJ, the local journalist made a formal complaint with the Waterloo Police Station where he was issued with a medical report that enabled him to seek urgent medical attention. Maada is still recuperating from the shock and beating meted on him by the military officers.
In his initial reaction to the attack on the journalist, the Association’s President; Ahmed Sahid Nasralla says:
“The action of those soldiers is totally unacceptable in a democratic state like Sierra Leone”, he went on “an attack on any journalist is an attack on press freedom. SLAJ is disappointed that even when the journalist was clearly identified by the T-shirt he wore, the soldiers reportedly went ahead to assault him in the manner they did”
The Journalists President urged the military personnel to among other things respect the memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed with all security sectors to protect and support one another’s role in SL’s democracy especially journalists.
In order to avert similar incident from reoccurring, SLAJ further called on the heads of the Sierra Leone Police and the military to promptly and speedily investigate the matter and take appropriate actions needed.
“The fundamental responsibility of the national security sector is to ensure the safety and security of the people, including those charged with various offences. Your (security sector) duty is to protect the people, and the people should also exercise their rights within the armpits of the law to protect the peace and stability of the country,” said Nasralla.
SLAJ has also condemned what seem to be sporadic attacks on journalists in the country. Just within three months, series of media personnel attacks were recorded. On the 28th of June, 2022, another journalist was attacked in the country’s house of Parliament. On 28th May this same year, another Journalist Sorie Saio Sesay was arrested and imprisoned for sharing what the Police deemed as untrue information. There has also been several incidents of journalists being beaten by security personnel, some of the accused security personnel works in the office of the president.