By Amin Kef-Ranger
In a Press Release dated 4th July, 2022 and signed by, Alhaji Manika Kamara, as National Secretary General, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) vehemently condemned the alleged beating of journalist ,Maada Jessie Jengo, of Voice of Peace and Development (VOPAD) Radio FM 96.5 in Waterloo, Koya, Western Rural District, by soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
According to Maada, he was on his way onboard a commercial motorbike to the office on Saturday, 2nd July, 2022 at around 13:00hrs to 14:00hrs GMT at Five-Five fuel station, Waterloo, when they ran into a black jeep with registration number ANK 156 carrying four soldiers including a high ranking officer.
The jeep, he narrated, was parked in the middle of the road denying access to the motorbike. He further explained that the bike rider and himself remarked against the action of the soldiers to park in the middle of the road when the officers disembarked the jeep and started beating both of them. Maada said he bore the brunt of the assault after the bike rider managed to escape leaving him at the mercy of the angry soldiers.
Maada explained that he pleaded with the soldiers to stop beating him. He alleged the soldiers seized his phone and recorder, and he lost the sum of One Million Six Hundred Thousand Leones (One Thousand Six Hundred Leones in the new notes).
The journalist is said to have made a formal report at the Waterloo Police Station and obtained a medical report on the same day of the incident. He is currently responding to treatment but complains of body pains as a result of the kicks and punches from the soldiers.
SLAJ is disappointed that even though the journalist was clearly identified by his t-shirt, the soldiers reportedly went ahead to assault him in the manner they did.
“The action of those soldiers is totally unacceptable in a democracy. An attack on any journalist is an attack on press freedom. I, therefore, urge personnel of the RSLAF to respect the MoU we have with the security sector to protect and support one another’s role in our democracy,” said SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.
Meanwhile, SLAJ is calling on the security sector (the RSLAF and the SLP) to respect citizens’ fundamental human rights.
“The fundamental responsibility of the national security sector is to ensure the safety and security of the people, including those charged with various offences. Your (security sector) duty is to protect the people, and the people should also exercise their rights within the ambits of the law to protect the peace and stability of the country,” said Nasralla.
SLAJ further called on the SLP and the RSLAF to investigate the incident involving the VOPAD journalist and take appropriate action.