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Journalist assaulted while documenting eviction in Sierra Leone

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 6 February 2013, Elkass Sannoh, a reporter for African Young Voices (AVY)— a privately-owned Freetown-based newspaper— was roughed up by a group of officers from the Sierra Leonean Police Service (SLPS) in Freetown. The assault on the journalist left him with damaged equipment, including his camera, and an amount of US $400 missing.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent, the incident began when the journalist came across the police officers, along with some court bailiffs, carrying out an eviction order at 56 Upper Waterloo Street, Freetown.

According to the correspondent, upon arrival at the scene, Sannoh introduced himself to ASP Murana Kamara, the officer-in-charge, who asked the journalist to leave, as his presence was not needed.

Sannoh, surprised at the way in which the police were throwing out valuable property belonging to the residents, aksed ASP Kamara whether it was right for the police to be involved in throwing away people's property when they were supposed to protect life and property.

According to the correspondent, Sannoh realized the ASP's refusal to answer his question, and brought out his camera to take shots of events as they unfolded. This act apparently angered the ASP, who ordered his men to seize Sannoh's camera and his mobile phone.

In the heat of the scuffle, a police officer who boldly declared his number as 9007 threatened the journalist that he would have dealt with him (Sannoh) fatally if he was not in uniform.

The MFWA has consistently condemned such unprofessional acts by the police and calls for immediate actions against the officers who carried out this assault.

We continue to urge the hierarchy of the SLPS and the Independent Media Commission (IMC) to take urgent steps to improve the relationship between the police service and journalists, which for many years has been plagued with a series of confrontations.

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