Journalist attacked by supporters of ruling party

Expression

Physical assault of journalist

As president Julius Maada Bio opened the second session of Sierra Leone's Parliament on 2nd May 2019, supporters of the ruling party - the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) - physically assaulted journalist Amira Tatayea Bangura outside of the Parliament, said the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). Bangura, a reporter for Sierra Express Media, was covering a protest action by opposition members of parliament, who walked out of the Parliament in protest of what they call SLPP's bad governance. As Bangura was recording the assault on two opposition MP's by SLPP supporters, she was attacked while a bodyguard of president Bio reportedly seized her phone and deleted the footage, according to the Sierra Express Media. Bangura described the incident as follows: 

"While I was taking pictorial evidence [of the assault], SLPP supporters rushed at me saying that the journalists must not take any snap shot."

Peaceful Assembly

On 31st May 2019, clashes between police officers and protesters supporting the main opposition party - All People's Congress (APC) - took place in Freetown. APC supporters started gathering at the party's headquarters in protest of the High Court decision to revoke the parliamentary seats of 10 APC members, on grounds of violation of the electoral law in the March 2018 elections. Riot police reportedly fired tear gas canisters at protesters who were inside the party's headquarters. The High Court ruling follows a petition of SLPP candidates who lost from the APC in their constituencies, and changed the majority in the Parliament from APC to SLPP, the political party of president Bio, with respectively 57 and 58 seats.  Nine seats were reallocated to the runners-up for the respective constituencies, who are from the SLPP, while the court ruled that a by-election will be organised for the 10th seat. A few days earlier, the leadership of APC called upon the party's supporters to protest through so-called "red days" on 30th and 31st May 2019 in which supporters were encouraged to wear red. 

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRC-SL) issued a statement on 3rd June 2019 expressing its concern, and condemned the actions of both the police force and APC protesters. In its monitoring of events on 31st May 2019, HRC-SL said that it 'observed that the police fired rubber bullets and teargas directly into the APC Headquarters while supporters were inside the building. HRCSL also observed that APC supporters barricaded roads, burnt tyres around the APC party office and pelted stones at police officers.' The human rights body called upon the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) to use a 'rights-based approach to policing'. 

Association

CSOs take Sierra Leone to regional court over school ban for pregnant girls

Civil society organisations (CSOs) Equality Now,  Women Against Violence and Exploitation Society (WAVES) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa have taken Sierra Leone to the regional court - the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Community Court of Justice over a ban on pregnant girls to attend school and sit for exams, a policy that was introduced in 2015 when schools re-opened following the Ebola outbreak. Originally filed in May 2018, hearings took place on 7th May 2019 and 25th June 2019, and was adjourned to 20th November 2019 for judgement.