Media Foundation for West Africa – The sub-regional rights body, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), on Wednesday condemned the assault on journalist Elkass Sannoh, by some Sierra Leonean police officers.
According to an MFWA statement, Sannoh, a reporter with the African Young Voices (AVY), a privately-owned newspaper based in Freetown, Sierra Leonean capital, was manhandled on 6 February by members of Sierra Leonean Police Service (SLPS).
MFWA said the journalist was trying to cover an eviction exercise at 56 Upper Waterloo Street in Freetown when he came under attack.
The assault on Sannoh was said to have left him with damaged equipment, including his camera, and US$ 400 cash missing.
'MFWA has consistently condemned such unprofessional acts by the Police and calls for immediate actions against the officers who carried out the assault,' the statement highlighted.
'We continue to urge the hierarchy of the SLPS and the Independent Media Commission (IMC) to take urgent steps to improve the relationship between the service and journalists, which for many years has been plagued with a series of confrontations.'
MFWA further revealed that Sannoh's problem started when he arrived at the scene where the police and some judicial officials were carrying out an eviction order.
On arrival, Sannoh reportedly introduced himself to ASP Murana Kamara, the officer-in-charge, who allegedly asked the journalist to leave the scene as his presence was not needed.
According to the rights body, Sannoh, surprised at the way and manner with which the police were throwing out valuable properties belonging to some residents, inquired from ASP Kamara, whether it was right for the police to be involved in throwing away people’s property when they were supposed to protect life and property.
The police officer was said to have refused to answer the journalist's question who then took out his camera to take shots of events as they unfolded.
MFWA further disclosed that ASP Kamara, apparently annoyed by the journalist, responded by ordering his men to seize Sannoh's camera and mobile phone.
'In the heat of the scuffle, a police officer who boldly declared his number as 9007 threatened the journalist that he would have dealt with him (Sannoh) fatally if he was not in uniform,' MFWA statement added.