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Sierra Leonean freelance journalist flees country following death threats, attacks, prior imprisonment and torture

(MFWA/IFEX) - Muhamed Oury Bah, a Sierra Leonean journalist and former reporter of the banned Banjul-based "The Independent" newspaper, has fled The Gambia in the face of persecution by agents of the notoriously feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He was in the country as a refugee, working as a freelancer.

MFWA sources reported that Bah and his family fled The Gambia on 20 January 2008 following repeated physical attacks and threats against his life.

Bah told MFWA sources that the last straw came on 17 October 2007 when he was physically attacked by people he suspected to be agents of the NIA at Serrekunda, The Gambia's largest city.

Bah said his assailants told him: "You are responsible for your own problems . . . because you are a stupid journalist who writes stupid things about The Gambia."

He was one of the journalists of "The Independent" who were arrested and briefly detained by Gambian police immediately after the newspaper was illegally closed on 28 March 2006.

On 3 June 2006, Bah was again arrested and detained at the NIA headquarters upon his return to the country, following an interview he granted a newspaper in Guinea about the deteriorating press freedom situation in The Gambia. Bah said that, on that occasion, one of the agents told him: "We have warned you several times to stop popping your nose into our affairs, but you remained adamant". As a result of torture meted out to him while in detention, Bah lost one of his teeth.

Previously, Bah had been arbitrarily detained and tortured in his home country, Sierra Leone. He was a victim of the military regime of Johnny Paul Koroma, which overthrew former president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's administration in 1997.

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