The statement was originally published on mfwa.org on September 11, 2019.
A group of men reported to be bodyguards of President Julius Maada Bio have assaulted three sports journalists during a football match.
Two of the assailants who were identified by their nicknames, Sweet and Kposowa, had a verbal confrontation with Frances Bernard-Bundor and Esther Maray Samoura, both working for the state-owned Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), during a FIFA World Cup qualifier between Sierra Leone and Liberia at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown on September 8, 2019. The guards had stormed the commentary box to complain that the journalists were disturbing the President by running their commentary right above where he was seated.
The two SLBC journalists were however accosted and beaten after the said altercation. Frances reported that between three and five guards – some in uniform and others in plainclothes – beat her up severely. Her colleague, Esther, who went to report the assault to the deputy sports minister, was also slapped by one of the guards as she was returning to the scene in the company of the deputy minister. As the Minister intervened, Esther took out her phone to record the events, her phone was snatched and she was given further beating and her dress torn.
The assailants also manhandled Alimmamy Kamara, a freelance Sports journalist, who was in the company of Esther and Frances. One of the attackers reportedly threatened to shoot the victims.
The media fraternity, including the Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL), has expressed indignation at the incident and demanded prompt redress.
“Sports Writers Association of Sierra Leone calls on the office of the President to thoroughly investigate this act of violence and bring to book all those responsible for this barbaric act,” Sahr Morris , National Secretary General of SWASAL, said in a statement.
“This is a very sad situation for journalism in Sierra Leone. A threat to kill is a very serious issue which should not be taken lightly especially by an individual carrying arms. Should journalists covering events where the President is present now begin to fear for their lives?” Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), also queried.
The MFWA is equally concerned about the assault on the three journalists and calls on the Presidency to ensure that the perpetrators are severely punished. The action of the presidential bodyguards has the potential to bring the image of the Presidency into disrepute. We, therefore, call for a strong denunciation of the violent conduct from the office of the President.