Journalist Beaten by Soldiers for Taking Pictures of COVID-19 Quarantine Facility

The Sierra Leone military authorities must investigate the brutal assault on investigative journalist Fayia Amara Fayia, by military personnel in Kenema on April 2, 2020, and bring the perpetrators to book.

The journalist, who works with Standard Times newspaper, had gone to a suspected COVID-19 quarantine venue at Dama Road, to report on activities there. However, he and other journalists who were present were denied entry into the facility. He, therefore, decided to take photos with his phone from a distance. While the journalist was engrossed in taking the photographs, one Major Fofanah lunged into Fayia and grabbed his mobile phone. The soldier then called his colleagues, about nine in number who subjected Fayia to severe beating.

According to the Sierra Leone Journalists Association, Fayia who was injured from the attack, was denied medical attention but rather detained by the Kenema Police until his colleagues intervened to secure his release and took him the hospital.

The journalist is said to be responding to treatment at the hospital, but is confined to a wheel chair.

The attack comes a couple of days after the Makoni Times released a Facebook video in which Sierra Leone’s First Lady, Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio is alleged to have threatened critics of her husband’s government with mob justice.

The assault on Fayia is also comes barely a week after the aggression on Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, the Imo State correspondent of the Leadership newspaper, who was covering the COVID-19 on march 28, 2020 Nigeria. A security officer seized the journalist’s prescription eye-glasses as well as her iPad and deleted the pictures she had taken of a hotel which had been forced to quarantine its guests for allegedly failing to comply with government’s directives on containing the pandemic.

The MFWA condemns the wanton attack on Fayia and calls on the military authorities to investigate the incident and punish the culprits. We also call on journalists in Sierra Leone and other countries in West Africa to take measures to be cautious of their personal safety and security while reporting on the epidemic. To this end, the various media professional associations and the security agencies must adopt an attitude of cooperation and respect for each other’s mandate in this critical period.

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