Journalists subjected to intimidation, threats, and physical attacks

Expression

Journalists physically attacked

According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and local media, a group of young people physically attacked journalist Alusine Antha in Waterloo, Western Area of Sierra Leone, on 17th February 2022. The journalist, who works for Eagle Africa FM, was reporting on a meeting aimed about settling a land dispute between the local Matale community and retired Assistant Inspector-General of the Police, Christopher John. When Antha arrived at the scene, violent clashes between angry youth and police officers occurred, with community members vandalising John’s car and throwing stones at police officers, forcing them to flee. The group then targeted Antha, who was accused by the group of belonging to John’s camp. He attempted to flee on his motorcycle, but they threw stones at the journalist and beat him with sticks, causing several injuries. During the attack, the perpetrators stole his motorcycle, two phones, and a recorder. According to CPJ, seven people were charged with assault in connection to the attack but failed to appear for their court hearing on 21st February 2022.

On 13th December 2021, camera operator for African Young Voices (AYV) Media, Ransford Wright, was reportedly physically attacked by eight police officers at the Central Police Office in Freetown. Wright filmed an incident in which police officers chased a commercial motorcycle rider, injuring a child in the pursuit. When he arrived at the Central Police Office to get the police’s side of the story, he was attacked. The police reportedly informed AYV Media that they have started an investigation into the alleged attack.

Radio journalist intimidated, detained overnight

Radio Bo KISS 104 FM reporter Solomon Maada Joe was detained on 7th February 2022 at a local police station in the southern city of Bo, when the journalist presented himself upon being summoned by the police. According to CPJ, the summons and the arrest of the journalist are reportedly related to a complaint by businessman Mohamed Jalloh, who accused Maada Joe of issuing threats after the latter discussed an alleged debt the businessman owes to another businessman during his weekly programme ‘Dr. Owl’ on Radio Bo KISS 104 FM on 2nd February 2022. After taking his statement, police officers took Maada Joe to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department in Freetown, where the complaint was made. Officers took the journalist’s two phones on arrival. Maada Joe was released the next day, on 8th February 2022, and his two phones returned. Police officers reportedly asked Maada Joe to retract his comments on Jalloh, which the journalist refused to do.

Journalist threatened, insulted by well-known rapper

On 11th December 2021, well-known rapper Alhaji Amadu Bah, also known as LAJ, posted a video on Facebook calling journalist and director of Radio Democracy Asmaa James Kamara a “bastard child” and threatened that “the next time I see you, I will piss on your face”. The insults and threat came after Radio Democracy reported on charges of public disorder and assaulting a police officer made against the rapper and his failure to appear for the court hearing on 6th December 2021. Arnaud Froger of RSF commented:

These comments are obscene, disgraceful, irresponsible and dangerous, and we condemn them with the utmost firmness. We call on Sierra Leone’s justice system to realise the importance of this case and to sanction the author of these hateful and sexist remarks about a journalist whose media outlet simply provided accurate coverage of a matter concerning him”.

On 13th December 2021, after many comments on social media and a statement by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the rapper issued an apology to Kamara. The latter filed a complaint against LAJ.