Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 April 2022:
There is widespread anger among schoolteachers in Sierra Leone, after the arrest on Tuesday by police of Mr Khan, the Interim Chairman of Teachers Solidarity. He was snatched away by police outside popular TV station – AYV after speaking live on a programme about the plight of schoolteachers and their conditions of service.
Shocked and dismayed by his arbitrary arrest, despite President Bio claiming to have expunged a law that criminalises libel and hinders free speech, the management of AYV TV published this statement:
“AYV is drawing the attention of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Independent Media Commission and the entire security sector especially the Sierra Leone Police to the arrest of Mohamed Khan after his appearance on AYV’s Wake Up Sierra Leone this morning.
“Mr Khan, the Interim Chairman of Teachers Solidarity was invited as a guest on the programme and was arrested just outside AYV’s premises soon after he left the show.
“As a private and professional media institution in Sierra Leone, AYV dissociates itself from the action of the Sierra Leone Police and would like to remind the SLP that its work is guided and protected by statutes including the most supreme law; the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
“Therefore, we kindly ask that the security forces refrain from making AYV’s premises a target location for arbitrary arrests as this will hinder our operations as a media institution and also infringe on the right to free speech which is guaranteed by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
“In addition, AYV is seriously concerned about the detention of Mr Khan for which the SLP has not provided a reason on record nor confirmed whether they had a warrant of arrest. We kindly request such information to be made public to promote law and order and prevent similar recurrence.”
Yesterday, it was also reported that two other leaders of the Teachers Solidarity group were arrested in the southern province of Bo and placed behind bars.
The Sierra Leone police are yet to comment on those arrests, as concerns grow over the police’s use of what is described as “powers from above” to muzzle free speech and arrest critics in the country.
A recent report published by the American government accuses the Bio-led government of serious human rights abuses. Also, a report published last year by the European Union elections observer mission to Sierra Leone, accused the police of high-handedness and lacking political impartiality.
Last week, opposition critic – Perspective Scope, said that President Bio’s government has gone back on its promise to end the arrest of journalists and attacks by ruling party supporters against those with whom the government disagrees, citing many examples of such arbitrary arrests and attacks since President Bio was elected in 2018. This is what they said:
Arrest and detention of a civil society activist, Edmond Abu, Executive Director of Native Consortium and Research Centre, by the Sierra Leone Police for staging a peaceful protest in Freetown against the increments in fuel pump price.
Invitation of the Leader and Chairman of ADP Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray and Abdul Fonti Kabia, formerly of AYV, to CID for interview he granted in response to allegation relating to the alleged publication of false news.
Invitation of journalist to Parliament to answer to some questions in connection with a story broadcast on African Young Voices TV, titled “Caught on Camera”, involving a member of parliament, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay and two others in a land matter. The AYV Director of News and Current Affairs, Mr. Samuel Wise Bangura, appeared before Parliament and was asked to retract and apologise. But he refused/declined.
Attack on the publisher of The Elephant Newspaper, Nimalty Kamara, allegedly by youth of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) for allegedly criticising the new regime of President Julius Maada Bio.
Attack on AYV TV journalist, Ransford Metzger, while investigating an alleged corruption matter at the St. Joseph Secondary School in Freetown.
Attack on the former Editor of Awareness Times Newspaper – John Koroma, during a Bye-Election in Tonko Limba, Kambia District, Northern Sierra Leone, on September 29, 2018, allegedly by a team of Sierra Leone Police officers and persons openly identifying themselves as SLPP supporters.
Arrest of Fayia Amara Fayia of Star Radio and Standard Times Newspaper by CID officers outside the AYV media on what the CID said was a post on his Facebook page containing defamatory words against His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Harassment of Alhassan Jalloh, Editor of the Unique Newspaper, by police officers attached to the Lumley Police Station in the West end of Freetown, while investigating a fracas between Leonco Filling Station at Lumley and a mosque.
Arrest and detention of Alpha Thorley, Managing Editor of the NightWatch Newspaper by the Sierra Leone Police on 14th January, 2019 on the allegation of publishing false information that several diplomatic passports were illegally given to families of the ruling government officials.
Attacks on and intimidation of civil society leaders, including the Executive Director of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), Madam Marcella Samba-Sesay, who had publicly expressed critical views on the media about the governance challenges.
Attack on a civil society activist, Morlai Conteh, President of the National Youth Coalition of Sierra Leone, allegedly by a group of military officers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) after the main opposition All People‘s Congress (APC) party did a walkout protest of the Presidential State Opening of Parliament on 2nd May 2019.
Arrest and detention of four local journalists- Sallieu Tejan Jalloh, Publisher of the Times SL Newspaper; David Johnson, Editor of Times SL Newspaper; Mustapha Sesay, General Editor, Standard Times Newspaper; and Abu Bakarr Kargbo (Father Bakish), a Senior Staff Writer of Standard Times Newspaper- in Freetown on Friday 28th June 2019. They were charged with eight-counts for allegedly publishing defamatory articles in the Times SL Newspaper and the Standard Times Newspaper respectively against Pa Momoh Fofanah Esq, a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of Sierra Leone.
Assault on two female sport journalists (Francess Bernard- Bundor and Easter Marie Samura) of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) by Officers of the Sierra Leone Presidential guard on Sunday 8th September 2019 at the National Stadium, during the FIFA 2022 World Cup Preliminary return-led match between Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Arrest and detention of Mahmud Tim Kargbo on 20th September 2019 for allegedly publishing a ‘defamatory article’ against Hon Justice Miatta Samba’, an Appeal Court Judge.
Arrest and detention of the Managing Editor of the Times Newspaper Sallieu Tejan Jalloh (Sal Tee) on 11th November 2019 in Freetown, by plainclothes police officers in connection with an SMS text message that he sent to the Chief Minister of Sierra Leone, Prof. David Francis enquiring about an alleged payment of US$ 1.5 million into his private ECOBANK account by SL Mining, which license had been cancelled by the state. (END)
A TV camera operator working for Sierra Leone’s independent AYV media was attacked by at least eight police officers at their headquarters in Freetown, when he tried to investigate an outbreak of violence in the east of the city, after a serious accident involving a police vehicle.
With Presidential and general elections due next year, there are fears the government and police may step up the arrest and intimidation of journalists, critics, and opposition politicians in the country to stay in power, which could lead to massive public disorder and widespread violence in the country.