Freetown: SLAJ wishes to condemn in the strongest of terms the reported physical assault and manhandling of ten journalists by overzealous plain clothes security operatives and members/supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in Bo, southern Sierra Leone.
SLAJ urges the leadership of the SLPP to show decent character and cooperate fully with the police in investigating the incident to demonstrate their willingness to respect the rule of law. Anything short of that will not be accepted.
The journalists had been invited by the party to cover their national delegates’ conference where they were beaten up as they attempted to record and take pictures of an open session of the second day of proceedings on Saturday 27 February 2010.
In an official complaint to SLAJ, some of the bruised journalists also complained that their recording and communications equipment including digital cameras and mobile phones were seized or stolen from them by people including the driver of the Chairman of the SLPP, John Oponjo Benjamin and other party operatives "in the full glare of some top SLPP executive members who did nothing to rescue the situation". They included the party’s Deputy Women’s Leader, Harriatu Turay; Assistant Secretary General, Alpha Timbo; and a Caucus Member of Parliament for Bo, Eric Jumu.
Reacting to the incident, the President of SLAJ Umaru Fofana urged the Police to treat the matter with the seriousness it deserves especially at a moment like this when as a nation we should be consolidating our hard won peace. "It is disheartening that there are still overzealous political party elements who are bent on making the work of journalists unnecessarily life-threatening," he said, adding that "these rogue elements must not be given a breathing space".
The victims are David Jabati, Editor of Exclusive Newspaper; Sulaiman Storm Koroma of Radio Democracy FM 98.1; Idrissa Sesay, Alimamy Lahai Kamara and Aruna P. Kamara all of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service; Mohamed Kabbah and Bampia Bundu of Awareness Times Newspaper, Abdul Kamara of Star Radio, James Fillie of Eastern Radio and Ishmael Bayoh of Awoko Newspaper. But for the intervention of the Kailahun District Council Chairperson Tom Nyuma and the National Women’s leader Isatu Kabbah, Mr Baryoh could have been beaten to coma.