Cabinet Ministers in the All People’s Congress (APC) led government have been terrorizing journalists for the past one week.
A total of six journalists were arrested and detained in police cells on the orders of the Minister of Lands, Allieu Pat-Sowe and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Joseph Sam Sesay.
It all started on Monday 13th December 2010 when Minister Pat-Sowe ordered the arrest and detention of four independent newspaper journalists. As if that was the start of a war on journalists, Agriculture Minister Joseph Sam Sesay followed his colleague’s trend on Thursday 16th December 2010 by ordering the arrest of two radio journalists in Bo, southern Sierra Leone.
The two staff of KISS FM Radio in Bo spent the night in police cell after they were arrested at 8pm.
A press statement issued by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) indicates that the radio staff were 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.
According to the SLAJ release, KISS FM Radio Technician, Ibrahim Farmer, who was one of the victims of the attack, told a news conference in Bo that he was slapped by one Mr. Massaquoi, a member of the minister’s entourage, who forced him to leave open the microphone fader in the studio.
“A woman who was also a part of the minister’s entourage asked me to sit on the floor but I refused,” he is quoted as saying, adding: “The armed police bodyguard assigned to the minister stood in the doorway and prevented me from entering the studio once I 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.
Continuity announcer, Mohamed Daramy also told the news conference that he was slapped by a tall member of the minister’s entourage whose name he does not know but whom he said he can identify 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.
The police never bothered to ask them a single question or obtain statements from them that evening, the SLAJ release revealed.
Minister Joseph Sam Sesay had earlier said that he only requested police intervention so that the journalists would be called in to make a statement. He alleged to have paid for the air time which the journalists interrupted, but Station Manager and Commercial Manager of the Radio 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.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.