September 10, 2019
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ) together with other media related organizations has condemned the physical attack and assault on two female journalists by Presidential bodyguards during the FIFA World Cup 2022 preliminary return-leg match between Leone Stars and Lone Stars of Liberia at the National Stadium on Sunday, 8th.
Both journalists- Francess Bernard and Esther Marie Samura are sports reporters of the state broadcaster, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).
According to the press statement issued yesterday, the two journalists were reportedly in the commentary booth at the far end of the presidential stand doing their work when the said bodyguards ordered them and their colleagues to vacate the booth ‘as they posed a security threat to the president’.
The statement says Esther had reportedly approached the Deputy Minister of Sports, Kai Lawrence Mbayo, to come to their rescue, but was beaten right in front of the minister and her phone snatched from her, while one of the security guards further threatened to Kill the journalist displaying his pistol.
According to the statement,a freelance sports journalist, Alimamy Kamara commonly called Home Base, was also assaulted and lost his phone in the process in.
The journalists had identified two of the officers who assaulted them; one is commonly called ‘Sweet’ and the other Colonel Kposowa.
The release says a week ago, another female journalists working for Radio Democracy 98.1FM also came under series of disgusting verbal attacks on social media for doing their work.
“SLAJ strongly condemns these systematic attacks and is worried that the trend seems to indicate a calculated attack on female journalists. Furthermore, SLAJ is concerned that a State Security official should threaten to kill journalists for performing their legitimate function in a place designated for that work – since that Stadium was built – and which has consistently being done by journalists in the presence of every President of Sierra Leone before President Bio,” the release states.
The journalists’ umbrella body expressed worries that armed State Security operatives could beat up defenseless women in full view of the public, at a time when the Government of Sierra Leone has been telling the world about respect for Women and Girls.
“This is a very sad situation for journalism in Sierra Leone. A threat to kill is a very serious issue which should not be taken lightly especially by an individual carrying arms. Should journalists covering events where the President is present now begin to fear for their lives?” asked SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.
The association accepted that close protection officers assigned to the President have responsibility for his safety and security, but that does not give them the right to assault anyone, let alone unarmed female journalists doing their job.
“SLAJ therefore calls on the Office of the President, and the Sierra Leone Police to speedily investigate and institute action against those responsible for the attack on these journalists,” the release notes.
However, the association had assured the affected journalists, and its entire membership, that it was working with the Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) and Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL), who have also put out a statement condemning the action to pursue the matter to its end.
Meanwhile, a press statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications, acknowledges receipts of the statements published by the media related organisations and noted that they would institute a committee to investigate the said matters.
“Government through the Ministry of Information and Communications will constitute a committee including SLAJ, WIMSAL and SWASAL to further investigate these allegations and appropriate measures will be taken against anyone found culpable,” the statement says.
The release called on all the aggrieved parties and victims to exercise restraint as the Ministry of Information and Communications together with the constituted committee carryout further investigations.