Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 April 2018:
It is now one month since elections were held in Sierra Leone; and twenty-four days, since the newly elected president Julius Maada Bio took office. But reports of political violence and instability continue to dominate the news, including troubling allegation of attack on the offices of the Sierra Express Media in Freetown by SLPP supporters.
It is important at this critical period of political transition, that the newly elected SLPP government prioritises the security and safety of all citizens and journalists, irrespective of party political affiliation, tribal or regional origin.
President Bio has spoken out loudly against lawlessness, political violence and impunity. But he must act now and decisively, if his rhetoric is to be taken seriously.
Sierra Leone’s liberal democracy and civil liberty must not be allowed to be eroded by a few hoodlums, who are bent on imposing their will or determined to settle old scores with those with whom they disagree.
President Bio must ensure that all allegations of political violence and attacks against the media, are properly investigated by the police and those responsible brought to justice.
The proprietor of Sierra Express Media – Mr. Chukwu Adeyemi Paul has written a letter of complaint to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), crying out for help, following an attack on his newspaper offices in the capital Freetown. This is what he says:
To: The President,
Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Report of Attack and threatening language by SLPP supporters on Sierra Express Media (SEM)
I write to refer you to an attack and threatening language by alleged supporters of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) on staff of the above mentioned media house.
On Monday 23rd April, 2018 at about 4:30 p.m., a group, comprising six (6) gallant men dressed in green and wearing wristbands with Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) inscription, stormed the premises of Sierra Express Media at 13 Pademba Road, Freetown, and started raining insults on members of staff of the institution that were present at the said time.
According to the attackers, Sierra Express Media has been very critical of the SLPP during their time in opposition and has also continued with the same trend even now that they are in governance.
They alleged that our articles and publications have been negative about their party and their candidate, who is now the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, and has therefore come for us to pay dearly for our publications.
Even though they did not succeed in harming any staff during this attack, they have however promised to come in subsequent times and especially during the night to carry out their plans.
As the body that is responsible for all journalists and media houses within the country, Sierra Express Media is therefore calling on the Association to come to its rescue as the lives of its staff are under threat.
I thank you for your anticipated intervention.
Chukwu Adeyemi Paul
I totally condemn such act to Sierra Express Media and those who did the act must be investigated and brought to justice. Those are the elements that trying to destroy the peace of the country. They also undermine the regime change administration of H E Rtd Maada Bio.
Mr President Sierra Leoneans who are very close to you, are the ones who will make your government become difficult to rule. In the end, people will start to blame you. Act now for alleged SLPP supporters to stop intimidating the Press.
I oppose anyone intimidating the press or attacking it. It is well known that Sierra Express Media (SEM) is not an independent press. It’s a partisan press. The Editor had even vied for APC symbol in the just concluded elections.
However that is not enough reason for anyone to storm their office. Threat is not going to change their position. But diplomacy can do that.
I was expecting that the SEM should have been more proactive by taking photos or audio recordings of these alleged attackers and hand these to the police for their intervention.
What if they are not truly SLPP supporters but someone else trying to put a wedge between the new government and the press?