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SLAJ President Mocks at SLPPís Kidnapped Foreign Journalist
By Aruna Turay
Oct 15, 2012, 12:02
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The elected President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Umaru Fofanah has openly mocked and provoked the sensitivities of a Senegalese Photo journalist, Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye who was on Monday 8th October 2012, kidnapped, detained and allegedly tortured in Sierra Leone by hired hooligans of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in Freetown.

 

I visited the abused journalist at his hotel on the day after the incident. He was in shock, could barely speak English and declined to grant an interview to me. I walked away feeling ashamed because we have left a bad impression on him.

 

It could be recalled that Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye was standing along Wallace Johnson Street that Monday video-capturing happenings of events that followed the nomination rally of the SLPP in Freetown when a group of SLPP thugs dressed in black attire with FBI marked on the caps they wore, attacked him on the streets and forcefully dragged him off the streets to a room inside their headquarters compound.

 

The French speaking journalist, who was assigned by his media institution based in France, to cover the electoral processes in Sierra Leone, was robbed off his money in foreign currency, IPOD music player, I-phone, wallet, ID card, mobile phone and his camera, among other things whilst in unlawful detention at the SLPP headquarters.

 

It was also reported by some pro-SLPP media houses that it was the Vice President of SLAJ, Sheik Bawoh who went into the room where Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye was held hostage and according to the Head of Police Operations at the Cityís Police Division, told the police that himself and the SLPP were ďinterrogatingĒ their captive under suspicion of being a spy.

 

According to an interview Bawoh gave to THE OWL newspaper, it was the same Sheik Bawoh who also collected some of the journalistís stolen items from the thugs and handed them over to Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye after his release. There is audio recording to the SLAJ Vice-President confirming this development.

 

What became a concern after Elhadji Saliou Ndiayeís release from illegal detention is the point that to date, SLAJ is yet to release a press statement condemning the act.

 

To the amazement of all, Umaru Fofanah went ahead and used the social media, Facebook to mock Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye. According to Fofanah, despite the fact that Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye was released from illegal detention by SLAJís Vice President, SLAJ has ďno evidenceĒ that the rights of Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye were violated during the process. Unbelievable eh?

 

Fofanah is simply saying that, even though his Vice President had walked all the way from his office into the SLPP building where he met the journalist in captivity, SLAJ absolutely saw nothing bad in that and the Association saw no form of violation on the rights of the journalist.

 

Prior to the incident, the journalist was not in the SLPP office working but on Wallace Johnson Street, at least a good 50 meters off the SLPP office. This is where he was taken off his normal duty and dragged into the SLPP office for questioning as if it was a police station.


If not for any other reason, SLAJ should have issued a position statement against the taking of a journalist off his duty, into political party office by politicians for so-called questioning. If they had a problem with him, why not simply call the police? Why abduct him into unlawful detention? This is scary.

 

Does my SLAJ President want to the world to believe that he and SLAJ see nothing wrong in a political party willfully taking a journalist off his duty to go into political party offices for questioning, when the police station should have been the most appropriate place for them to have taken him if for any reason anything funny is suspected in his movement?

 

Whether journalist Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye was tortured or not, the fact remains that there was no reason for him to have been taken into the SLPP office when there are several police stations and posts close to where he was positioned with his journalism gadgets.

 

It is evil to have kidnapped the poor man. If even he was not beaten, the psychological trauma alone is torture. Being taken off the streets in a foreign country by men dressed in black-black FBI outfits and locked into a room for several hours is something I will never want to experience.

 

There were also dozens of police personnel deployed to police the entire nomination event, who could have been invited to question Elhadji Saliou Ndiaye and not to be dragged into the SLPP office.

 

My concern is, if the SLPP at this stage has the guts to kidnap, detain and torture foreign journalists with impunity, and SLAJ is claiming to have seen nothing wrong with that, what will happen when it comes to us local journalists? Are we safe?


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