The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) yesterday strongly condemned an open threat against the life of its President, Umaru Fofana, by supporters of the sacked Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Haja Afsatu Kabba.
The threat followed Mrs. Kabba’s appearance in a Freetown court yesterday on corruption allegations when her supporters, mostly clad in red, saw Mr. Fofana walking across Siaka Stevens Street on his way to the Police Headquarters where he had parked his car. They rained insults on his mother and threatened to burn his house and kill him.
Fofana, who reports for the BBC, was in the company of other journalists and did not reply. He walked faster to get to his car and drove off.
The press release went on “This is not the first time that supporters of Mrs. Kabba have attacked me. During her initial indictment in April 2010, some of her supporters again rained insults on my mother and one even sent an object at me which did not hit me”, Umaru Fofana says.
“In a country where jobless bandits are all over the place ready and willing to wreck havoc for money, I am concerned about my safety and security and will soon make an official complaint to the Inspector General of Police”, Fofana stressed.
He averred that the incident will not dampen his resolve to remain steadfast and honest in working as a journalist. “This is the profession I have chosen and the only one that I like doing; so nothing or no-one can force me away from it,” he assured.
Meanwhile SLAJ strongly protests against the manhandling of journalists and denial of access to the courtroom by Police and court officials. Ibrahim Samoura of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, Josephine Lagao of Salone Times newspaper and Abibatu Kamara of Awoko newspaper have all reported being involved in one incident or another.
While the Master and Registrar of the court, Elwyn Bailor denies any knowledge why journalists were denied access to the court, Josephine Lagao said she was asked out of the court on the orders of Mr. Bailor. When she sought a reason from him on why she had been asked out, he reportedly told her that he did not want any journalist to listen to the proceedings. We view this as an abuse of office by Mr. Bailor and a deliberate and unlawful attempt to deny an open trial of a matter that is in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone.
Ibrahim Samoura was manhandled by an OSD police officer whom he and other eyewitnesses have identified only as Banya. The journalist had asked his cameraman to take pictures of a rowdy scene outside the court building when Banya allegedly pounced on him, roughed him and cut off a button on his shirt. Other police officers who joined in the manhandling of journalists did not display their names and numbers.
SLAJ calls on the police leadership to take action against especially Mr. Banya while urging them to reign in on their officers in dealing with journalists especially in such situations.