Sierra Leone UPDATE: Justice for journalists attacked at opposition party conference

A four-member committee set up to investigate an alleged assault on ten journalists covering a conference of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) in the early part of 2010 met for the first time in Freetown.

The committee, a joint initiative of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and the SLPP was to investigate as well as recommend action for or against some operatives of the SLPP who attacked the journalists during the opposition conference in Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone on February 27, 2010.

The committee comprised two representatives each from SLAJ and the SLPP.

Six of the affected journalists were Sulaiman Storm Koroma of privately-owned Radio Democracy, Idrissa Sesay, Alimamy Lahai Kamara and Aruna P. Kamara, of the state-owned Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), Abdul Kamara of Star Radio and James Fillie of Eastern Radio. The rest Mohamed Kabbah and Bampia Bundu, Ishmael Bayoh and David Jabati were from Awareness Times, Awoko and Exclusive newspapers respectively.

The incident occurred after Jabati, editor of the Exclusive photographed two members of the SLPP engaged in bitter argument. The assailants briefly seized his camera and attacked the other journalists who were also at the conference.

“This investigation will show that democracy has matured in Sierra Leone. I am very happy that the Sierra Leone People’s Party is willing to be a part of the process because the fourth estate has to be protected in carrying out its mandate’’, said Solicitor Ady Macauley, a representative of SLPP.

Ishmael Koroma, the acting national secretary general of SLAJ and a member of the panel said even though SLPP apologized immediately after the incident, there was need for an investigation so as to bring people to account for their actions and to stop unnecessary attacks on journalists in their line of duty.

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