Chairman of Teachers Solidarity in Sierra Leone arrested for speaking out on national television

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:

July 2018

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.

September 2018

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.

November 2018

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.

January 2018

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.

May 2019

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.

June 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.

September 2019

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.

November 2019

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)

December 2021

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.  

5 Comments

  1. Most times we do not think as patriots or even act as such. 2023 will be an eye opener when the Sierra Leone people will again re-elect Julius Maada Bio as President in recognition and appreciation of his stewardship of our country. Be ready to cry foul and insult the people of this country that they were smart enough to put an end to the recklessness of the Ernest Koroma led government.

    Am happy to see a President that has a better plan to lift his country to another level but myopic and shortsighted folks are still living in the past. Sierra Leoneans will not be electing a lunatic but a sober minded patriot of this nation.

  2. Under Bio , Sierra leone is now firmly caught in a state of denial socially,politically and economically .The president have mastered the art of spin and is stucked in a permanent state of denial about what ordinary Sierra Leoneans are experiencing everyday in their battle for survival and how to feed their families .The arrest of Mr Khan the interim,chairman of the solidarity for teachers , underscores the double talking of Bio. Mr Khan was just playing the devil’s advocate, not calling on any individual teachers that have been denied their basic salaries to express their feelings against Bio’s government in the streets and demand what is rightfully there’s .In his independence speech , he was quick to blame fellow Sierra Leoneans who he accused of making it their hobby of belonging to the Sierra leonean bashing brigades.Good luck with that Mr President .Unless and until we see a genuine changes , we will continue to raise our voices .Sierra Leone belongs to all of us .

    The pandemic of abuse of power by his government over free speech cannot be relegated to sound bites for public consumption, or playing for the public gallery or our international partners,in other to dilute the concerns raised by fellow Sierra leoenans about the direction of travel under his watch. That train of thought is not only misguided but missing the point for political point scoring . Bio seemed to be in a permanent state of denial about how little his government have achieved in the last four years. Publically on the one hand he is saying people are free to express themselves, but on the other hand his ever watchful Sierra leone police, that doubles as the guardians of free speech are quick to arrest and intimidate ordinary citizens for daring to say the unsayable.Which is which ?Is classic gives with one hand and takes away with the other.”staying in denial can interfere with your ability to tackle changes.

    If you’re in denial , you’re trying to protect yourself by refusing to accept the truth about something that is happening.” In our case the state of Sierra Leone in the 21st century.And this is exactly the spot Bio have steered the ship of State with no way of avoiding the hard rocks in his case the hard truth .But the truth shall prevail.

  3. Personally, I will be concerned if “ Mr. Kanu” is the head of the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) which is the institution that usually raises concerns about our teachers.
    The Free quality education program is a blessing to our future generation so anyone using a fringe element to undermine it should be held accountable. Sierra Leone is not a perfect country but Freedom of expression which is different from incitement is way better than most African countries. Journalist are even jailed or killed in many countries but thankfully our country is one of the exception.

  4. What ever their makkiavillian scenario strategy will be,come 2023, the Sierra Leone people will speak to power This is the most corrupt government we have got since the end of the civil war. We Sierra Leoneans will no longer allow for our democracy to be tempered with by any lunatic president. Enough is enough!!

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