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Four female journalists kidnapped, subjected to public humiliation by supporters of female genital mutilation

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 7 February 2009, four female journalists were taken hostage in Kanema, approx. 200 km from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, by members of a traditional female group called the Bondo Society. The group contested the journalists' reporting of female genital mutilation (FGM) practices in the county.

Manjama Balama-Samba and Henrietta Kpaka of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), and their colleagues, Isha Jalloh and Jenneh Brima of Eastern Radio, were picked up and detained in a bush for more than two and a half hours for allegedly filing reports on their respective stations about the practice of FGM in the town.

MFWA's correspondent reported that the journalists were stripped naked and mistreated. They were paraded through the streets and taken to the palace of Amara Bonya Vangahun, the paramount chief of the town. The family support unit of Sierra Leone later intervened and had them released.

MFWA's correspondent also reported that the leader of the Society, Haja Massah Kaisamba, justified the treatment of the journalists on a radio program. Kaisamba insisted that the journalists were detained following unfavourable comments they had made on their stations about FGM. She threatened further action against such anti-FGM campaigns. The four journalists have denied any wrongdoing.

Balama-Samba, who also works for United Nations Radio, reported receiving earlier threats from the group on 6 February.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread condemnation of the attack on the journalists.

MFWA calls on the police to investigate the matter and deal decisively with the leadership of the Bondo Society, whose actions are barbaric and defy all civility. MFWA further calls on Sierra Leonean authorities to condemn the group's actions.

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