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Wednesday, 5 November 2014
IN SIERRA LEONE, JOURNALIST IMPRISONED AFTER CRITICIZING PRESIDENT
A journalist in Sierra Leone has been
imprisoned after criticizing President Ernest Bai Koroma's handling of the
Ebola outbreak, according to news reports and local journalists. David Tam
Baryoh was arrested on Monday.
Baryoh, host of the popular weekly
"Monologue" radio program aired on the independent Citizen FM, was
arrested in his office by police who did not have a warrant, according to newsreportsand local journalists. Baryoh was
initially detained overnight at the Police Criminal Investigation headquarters
in the capital, Freetown, where he met briefly with his lawyer, local
journalists told CPJ. He was not allowed to see his wife.
Local journalists said they believed
Baryoh's arrest to be in connection with the November 1 "Monologue"
show, which was taken off the air during its live broadcast, Kelvin Lewis,
president of Sierra Leone's Association of Journalists, told CPJ. In that show,
Baryoh interviewed an opposition party spokesman who criticized Koroma and his
government's handling of the Ebola outbreak, local journalists said. Baryoh and
the party spokesman also criticized Koroma's intention to run for a third term
in office, according to newsreports.
During the program, Baryoh also interviewed Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana,
whose relationship with Koroma has soured, according to localpress reports.
Lewis told CPJ that he met Baryoh at
the police station, where the journalist told him the police had showed him an
executive detention order signed by President Ernest Bai Koroma, which accused
him of incitement. While Baryoh was at the station, a doctor diagnosed him with
high blood pressure and recommended hospitalization, Lewis said. However,
police,citingemergency powers given to President
Koroma, remanded Baryoh to the Bamenda Maximum Security Prison. No official
charges have been filed against him.
Under the current state of emergency
in Sierra Leone, intended to restrict spreading of the Ebola virus, the
president has wide-ranging powers, including the arrest of any person without a
court order, Lewis told CPJ.
BBC correspondent Umaru Fofana who
visited Baryoh in prison wrote on Facebook that the journalist was
"struggling to stand upright as he repeatedly bent down and held his
"Sierra Leone's genuine state of
emergency means that critical thinking and public debate are more important
than ever. Locking away journalists without charge helps nobody," said
Peter Nkanga, CPJ's West Africa representative. "We call on President
Ernest Bai Koroma to ensure that David Tam Baryoh is released immediately and
that journalists are allowed to do their jobs freely."
Osho Coker, Secretary to the President,
declined to comment to CPJ. Information Minister Alpha Kanu did not reply to
CPJ's calls or a text message.
Baryoh has been targeted by government
officials in the past. In January, he wasarrestedand accused of seditious libel,
according to news reports. In May, "Monologue" was banned for two
months following a government directive, according to newsreports.