Sierra Leone Alert: Journalist arrested and detained on Presidential executive order

Dr. David Tam-Baryoh, a journalist who hosts the programme “Monologue” on Citizen Radio in Sierra Leone, was arrested and detained at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Freetown on November 3, 2014.

The MFWA’s correspondent in Sierra Leone reported that Dr. Tam-Baryoh, who suffers from high blood pressure, was transferred from the CID office to the hospital at the Pademba Road maximum security prison in Freetown on November 4.

According to our correspondent, even though the executive detention order stated that Tam-Brayoh was arrested for incitement, many believe the authorities wanted to prevent him from further criticising how the government is handling the Ebola crises.

No charges have been filed against the journalist yet.

The president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) told MFWA’s correspondent that SLAJ is currently working out a plan to petition President Ernest Bai Koroma to release Dr. Tam-Baryoh on medical grounds.

Tam-Brayoh’s “Monologue” programme, which is considered the most popular radio programme in Sierra Leone, has recently caused problems with authorities in Sierra Leone.

On July 5, Tam-Brayoh—who also works as the Director of Citizen Radio—received a letter from Sierra Leone’s media regulatory body, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), requesting that he suspend “Monologue”. The letter, signed by the Executive Secretary of the IMC, J.P.K Lamin, stated, “I am further directed to convey to you the cabinet conclusion C.P. (2014) at its meeting on 21st May 2014 that the Monologue Programme on Citizen Radio be issued a sixty days suspension order as from 12 o’clock today”.

Tam-Baryoh has also had issues with the country’s Transport and Aviation Minister Leonard Balogun Koroma. For example, a text message he sent seeking clarification was deemed to be seditious libel and police detained him on “orders from above.” He was finally released after posting bail of 100 million Leones (about US $22,500 ).

According to MFWA’s correspondent, the July incident was the first time that a Sierra Leonean President—together with his cabinet—had ordered the IMC to stop a radio programme without stating the reasons. Furthermore, the incident this week is the first time a president has ordered executive detention order to arrest and detain a journalist.

According to the correspondent, it is also the first time since a Sierra Leonean president has issued an executive detention order to arrest and detain a journalist after the country became a democratic state.

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