The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists has called for an Independent Investigation Panel to look into the beating-up of four journalists on Saturday 3rd September 2011 at the National Stadium by two plain-clothes Police Officers attached to the Presidential Guards.
“SLAJ firmly believes that the Sierra Leone Police are not neutral as evident in the behaviour and utterances of the Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu, as well as outstanding issues.
We are shocked and disappointed that to this moment the Police have not come out with the full names and ranks of the two Officers whom we know only as Sullay and Kabbah. Rather the head of the Police chose to go on State television on Wednesday morning apparently defending one of them by saying that ‘The Police Officer who was allegedly manhandled by Fajah and his men is now admitted at the 34 Military Hospital’, when in actual fact, Sports journalist, Mohamed Fajah Barrie, was beaten to coma and stabbed in the forehead”.
“There is no justice guaranteed where Police Officers, all by themselves, investigate the actions of their colleague Police Officers especially when the suspect works as a Presidential Guard”, says SLAJ President Umaru Fofana. “The Police can be represented on the proposed panel that could be headed by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and include other institutions we are amenable to discuss” he adds, stressing he suspects a cover-up by the Police.
As contained in a letter SLAJ has written to President Ernest Bai Koroma, the two body guards must be suspended from the force, while investigations are ongoing. The Association however wishes to laud the statement from the Office of the President denouncing the beating of the journalists. “We appreciate the President’s call for an investigation and action to be taken against the Officers”. Meanwhile, SLAJ wishes to express concern that months since journalist Ibrahim Foday was killed, the Police have come up with nothing concrete in that matter. A serving Police Officer is alleged to have held the journalist back as he attempted to flee from his attackers for ease of stabbing allegedly by Tunday Williams whose mother serves in the Police Force. Since the arrest of the Police Officer suspected to have aided and abetted the killing, no-one knows the status of the neither matter nor have the Police publicized the photograph of the suspected killer for ease of identification, or even put a bounty on his head. “Clearly the leadership of the Police must redeem themselves”, adds Fofana.