Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2023:
One of Sierra Leone’s most successful female media entrepreneurs, chief executive of Zed Zee Media Enterprise – Zainab Sheriff was arrested yesterday, accused of producing and sharing video on social media which the police say is offensive to President Bio and his wife.
The video which went viral on social media speaks of the serious human rights abuses committed by the Bio-led government, including the killing of dozens of people in cold blood since he took office in 2018.
In the video, Zainab prayed for the president to lose the coming presidential election because of his poor human rights record and poor handling of the economy. But the police nor State House are amused. They are worried.
Many Sierra Leoneans in and out of the country, say that freedom of speech is no longer free in Sierra Leone, as the country is now gripped by a murderous military junta style dictatorship.
The President – a retired Brigadier is being accused by many Sierra Leoneans including opposition parties and civil rights groups, of extra-judicial killing of over 60 unarmed prisoners in Freetown, the killing of opposition youths in Tombo, Makeni, and Lunsar a couple of years back with impunity. No one has faced justice for those killings.
Last August, police shot dead dozens of unarmed youths taking part in street demonstrations across the country against rising food prices and unemployment. They were gunned down in cold blood.
Female media entrepreneur – Zainab Sheriff was detained at the CID by police yesterday and is believed to have been released awaiting questioning this morning.
This is the video shared on social media by Zainab Sheriff that got the authorities in Freetown worried and jittery, leading to her arrest and incarceration:
Critics say that since coming to power in 2018, over 100 people have died in the hands of President Bio, for which they are also holding his wife culpable as “joint enterprise”.
Following Zainab’s arrest, the country’s Office of National Security published a notice yesterday saying that “the Security Sector will host a press conference to address various national security issues, including the misuse of social media. The conference comes up on Wednesday, 19th April, 2023 (today) at the ONS Conference Room at 11:00am. Invited institutions, personalities and Press houses are encouraged to attend and on time.”
Since taking power in 2018, the Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio who stands accused of executing 29 people after a military coup that he led in 1992 against a democratically elected government, is facing huge political backlash from the international community as political tension rises in the country, amid deteriorating human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings by security forces and party operatives, rampant corruption, and poor management of the economy. Elections are due on 24th June 2023.