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Journalists manhandled by presidential bodyguards

(CEMESP/IFEX) - On 21 September 2007, bodyguards of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from the Special Security Service (SSS), brutalized and intimidated several local journalists and correspondents of international news organizations.

The journalists, including Jonathan Paylelay of the BBC, Dosso Zoom of Radio France International, Alphonso Towah of the Reuters News Agency and other local journalists told CEMESP that they were physically assaulted by the SSS officers.

During the scuffle, journalists Paylelay, Zoom and Towah were held by their clothes, beaten and bundled out of the interview area for what the presidential guards termed as "bridge of protocol."

The journalists, who had gathered at the Roberts International Airport as early as 11.00 a.m. (local time), far ahead of the scheduled arrival of the Sierra Leonean President Ernest Koroma, were earlier denied entry into the VIP terminal where both Presidents Koroma and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf later signed a joint communiqué for a non-aggression treaty between Sierra Leone and Liberia.

A few minutes after the incident, Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio met with the offended journalists and apologized for the action perpetrated against them by the State security personnel.

This latest action of state security personnel against journalists is not the first since the induction of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf almost two years ago.

The first major event about a year ago was at the Executive Mansion, when Journalists Abbas Dorley of the "New Democrat", Olando Zeongar of the "Heritage" and Jallah Grayfield of Radio Veritas were manhandled and equipment damaged by some officers of the SSS (see IFEX alerts of 12 September and 14 June 2006).

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