Sierra Leone - Press - Freedom

S/Leone: Union alleges state sanctioned brutality of journalists

APA-Freetown (Sierra Leone)

The umbrella Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has accused the government of presiding over state sanctioned brutality against journalists and called for an end to it.

SLAJ said on Friday that it was concerned about the inhumane treatment of two colleague journalists and called for the security forces to call their personnel to order.

One of the incidents involved a journalist, Fayia Amara Fayia, who was allegedly beaten by personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the National Police. The alleged incident which happened in the eastern Kenema District was reportedly sanctioned by the head of the Kenema District Council (KDC).

SLAJ said about nine military officials were involved in the incident which happened on Wednesday, 1st April, 2020.

Fayia is a divisive figure, largely due to his open support for the main opposition All Peoples Congress.

He is believed to be a card-holding member of the party. And he is known to use disparaging remarks against the government, particularly the President and First Lady.

According to reports, the journalist and his colleagues were refused entry into a potential quarantine venue that was barricaded by the military while other people were allowed access. The journalist reportedly came under attack when he took snapshots with his smart phone of a truck of rice being off-loaded within the barricaded area.

Fayia was detained and subsequently charged on three counts of "disorderly behavior and obstruction of security services," before been released on bail last Thursday.

His case comes back to court on 15th April, 2020.

In another incident in the northern district of Makeni, another journalist was reportedly beaten by police last Sunday.

SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, was quoted saying that such attitude by the country’s security forces was uncalled for and described it as “worrying.”

“Our security forces seem to have no other means of dealing with journalists other than physically assaulting them. It seems as if a key element of their training is how to beat journalists,” Mr Nasralla said in a statement.

He added that the list of police/military assault on journalists is long.

"Leave journalists to do their work. We are not punching bags. It’s a shame that our security forces seem to have no clue about the role of the media in our democracy. This has to stop! Enough is enough!,” he slammed.

KC/Dng/APA

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