From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)Press Release
Feb 9, 2009, 00:37



Freetown, 7 February 2009: The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is shocked by news that four journalists in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone were on Saturday morning, 7 February 2009, captured by some Soweis and other members of the Bondo secret society for allegedly reporting on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

We condemn in the strongest of terms these illegal arrests and detention in a Bondo Bush of the journalists and reiterate our appeal to the public that formal and civilised channels exist for seeking redress which must be respected. We commend the Sierra Leone Police whose prompt collaboration with SLAJ led to the release of the journalists.

The Womenís Leader in Kenema and head of the Bondo Society, Haja Massah Kaisamba said the journalists were taken into their custody because they spoke unfavourably on radio about FGM and vowed they would not allow anyone to do so. The journalists have all denied any wrongdoing saying they had no hand in any campaign on radio against the practice of FGM.

Manjama Balama-Samba of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and United Nations Radio, Henrietta Kpaka also of SLBS, Isha Jalloh and Jenneh Brima both of Eastern Radio were picked up and taken to the Bondo Society Bush. Balama-Samba was reportedly stripped naked in the bush and was later paraded humiliatingly on the streets of Kenema to the Paramount Chief, Amara Bonya Vangahun before being set free.

She said several threatening phone calls were made to her by supporters of FGM and felt humiliated and her life threatened by todayís action.

Once again SLAJ reiterates its position that Sierra Leone is a country governed by law and if the Bondo people felt strongly at anything said about them on radio, they have a right to reply and should ask the radio station for a rejoinder rather than illegally arresting and detaining journalists. SLAJ does not want to be forced to use harsher methods of getting redress and would like all to behave as by law established.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.