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U.S. refutes ‘fake news’ linking terrorism with coronavirus aid

June 22, 2020

By Al MansaraY

The United States government says a recently delivered consignment of items to Sierra Leone’s military was meant as aid to fight COVID-19 in the country, and not for terrorism purposes – contrary to media reports.

‘Salone’ is the simplified form of Sierra Leone in the local Krio lingua franca.

A   U.S. Department of State official says the items were loaned to the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone in their efforts to assist in the fight to eradicate coronavirus.

“We recently ​​provided equipment on a temporary basis to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces to support Sierra Leone’s response to the COVID crisis,” the official wrote in an email response.

However, AYV newspaper used a photograph taken at the event and falsely attributes it to a supposed fight against terrorism in Sierra Leone.

In fact, the U.S. Department of State authoritatively stated that the loaned equipment were not meant for terrorism activities.

“This support was unrelated to counterterrorism operations,” the official says.

The loaned items included two water purification units, five support vehicles, four ambulances, one water bowser, two generators and 53 tents with cots and bedding.

US embassy in Freetown says providing a “safe and secure place” to isolate — from others — those testing positive, is an integral way to combat COVID-19.

“On May 22, 2020, United States Ambassador, Maria Brewer, met with the Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Defense, Colonel (Retired) Muana Brima Massaquoi, to loan vital logistical equipment to the Community Care Center at the Peace Mission Training Center in Hastings,” an embassy Facebook statement says.

AYV Newspaper did not attend the event — and the photo they used was provided to them by the military in collaboration with the Ministry of Information, according to AYV editor Aruna Turay.

“They have this strategic communications unit from the Ministry of Information that normally covers and write those stories, and then circulate to media institutions for publication,” Turay says on the phone.

Pres. Julius Maada Bio early May, made a widely condemned televised statement — when he refers to the main opposition APC as ‘terrorists’.

Bio says the opposition leadership was responsible for inciting, planning, financing, mobilizing and…“In some cases actively participating in violent terrorist attacks against the people of this country.”

But the U.S.Government said Sierra Leone is not a designated state sponsor of terrorism.

The U.S. says it also assists Sierra Leone in peacekeeping operations but…

“Our current programs in Sierra Leone are not focused specifically on combating terrorism,” the official says.

AYV media empire — Newspaper, Television & Radio— is widely read, viewed and listened to in Sierra Leone. And is seen by many as a mouthpiece of the Bio government.

A U.S. embassy media team official in Freetown confirms that they do collect and review daily newspaper publications in the country — but would not say why they have not publically refuted the incendiary reportage from AYV.

An email correspondence says the US embassy will issue a response Friday.

Independent Media Commission — the regulatory body responsible for professional media standards in Sierra Leone says they were not aware of the AYV publication, and condemns such ‘negative’ reporting.

“It’s very unthinkable that any responsible journalist can write that kind of thing in the press,” IMC Chairman George Khoryama says.

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists President Ahmed Sahid Nasralla says also, that he has not seen the AYV story — and will issue a statement after he reads it.

Ironically, SLAJ and the European Union Thursday launched a partnership to fight fake news in Sierra Leone.

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