Mr. Bampia Bundu, a reporter at Awareness Times newspaper has yesterday corrected an erroneous assertion in a press release issued from the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) which had alleged that Madam Hariatu Turay, Deputy Womenís Leader of the opposition SLPP had been present when journalists were being beaten but she did nothing to stop the beatings.
Bundu confirms that indeed journalists including himself were manhandled just as was reported in the SLAJ Release but he strongly denies that Hariatu Turay stood by and did nothing.
"She was initially not even present at the scene and when she arrived, at first she thought it was SLPP supporters fighting over their constitution debate but I was the one who bitterly grumbled to her that it was SLPP security men beating up David Jabati. At which point she became very angry and was shouting against the SLPP security and defending the rights of us invited journalists," Bundu corrected.
Similarly, in a telephone conversation with the Awareness Times, the prime victim of the brutality meted out to journalists, Mr. David Jabati, Editor of Exclusive Newspaper, has also confirmed that he only reported what he was told about Hariatu Turay being present. According to Jabati, he never set eyes on Hariatu during the fracas so he could not confirm if she stood by and did nothing.
Meanwhile, Hariatu Turay, in her role as a senior member of the SLPP, has apologised to all journalists who suffered manhandling during the just concluded SLPP Convention in Bo. Not only that, she has also personally telephoned both David Jabati and Ishmael Bayoh to commiserate with them even as she explained to them that she was not at all present when the manhandling of Jabati occurred and when later Ishmael Bayoh was manhandled, she worked to protect him and other journalists.
The Western Region Chairman of the SLPP, Lansana Fadika, who was praised in the official complaint filed by both Jabati and Bayoh (SEE PAGE 4), has also confirmed to Awareness Times that in his view, the SLAJ Press Release was not fair to Hariatu Turay given the role she played alongside with him, in working to ensure that overzealous SLPP supporters did not manhandle journalists. Strangely, although the initial complaint filed heaped praises on Lansana Fadikaís role in protecting journalists, the SLAJ Press Release did not cite him in praise. It did not even mention him thus raising eyebrows.
Here is what the initial complaint from journalists stated: "...save for the timely intervention of the SLPP Western Area chairman, Lansana Fadika, Ishmael Bayoh would have been something else." However, the SLAJ Press Statement says it was Tom Nyuma who intervened to save Bayoh and makes absolutely no mention of Fadika.
Hariatu, whilst expressing her high esteem for SLAJ, has however appealed for a review of the SLAJ Press Release in order to restore her good name back.
Various Press Statements on this issue are on Pages 2 and 4 including the official apology from the SLPP.