Attempt to murder Sierra Leone journalist and family
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an apparent attempt to murder a TV reporter in northern Sierra Leone’s Kambia District while he and his family were asleep, and calls on the authorities to conduct an immediate investigation and to protect the journalist, who has been covering sensitive stories.
After being woken by a strong smell of petrol on the night of 29 April, Gibril Gottor and his family discovered a plastic bag dripping petrol in a roof ventilation pipe, and found that their apartment’s back door had also been doused in petrol.
A reporter for the privately-owned TV channel Africa Young Voices (AYV), Gottor has left his home and has stayed away from his family ever since that night for fear of putting them in danger.
Gottor told RSF he has been investigating several sensitive stories including looting by a criminal group in a nearby village in December 2021, theft of land in which the same group is suspected, the extortion of fishermen by naval personnel, the rape of a minor by a police officer, and illegal timber trafficking to neighbouring Guinea. He also said he had received several threats and court summonses in the course of his reporting.
“We strongly condemn this attempt to murder a journalist who was just doing his job, said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. The authorities must react by conducting an investigation to identify and punish those responsible, and by guaranteeing the safety of this journalist and his family. Sierra Leone has risen 27 places in RSF’s newly released World Press Freedom Index and must continue to progress by ensuring that journalists can working freely and safely.”
Gottor said that, when he reported the attempted arson attack to the police, they refused to provide him with night-time protection but undertook to patrol the area where his apartment is located.
Sierra Leone has seen a marked decline in violence against journalists in recent years and cases of journalists being imprisoned have virtually ceased. The last murder of a journalist was in 2011 when Ibrahim Foday was fatally stabbed while covering a land dispute between two communities on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital, for The Exclusive, a daily newspaper. The police arrested several suspects but the investigation was inconclusive and those responsible were never identified.