Ruling party activists storm radio station in Sierra Leone, injuring five journalists

Hope FM Sierra Leone journaliste

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an attack by ruling party activists on a provincial radio station in Sierra Leone in which five journalists were injured and much of its equipment was destroyed. The investigation into this press freedom violation must be thorough and those responsible must be brought to justice, RSF says.

More than 20 people participated in the 23 October attack on Home FM, a radio station known for its independence and comprehensive coverage of news and current affairs in Makeni, a city 185 km east of the capital. Four of the five injured journalists had to be hospitalised, while the damage to the station’s equipment has been put at more than 23,000 euros.

Those who stormed Home FM’s studios openly claimed to be affiliated to the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), which has been in power since 2018. The police arrested only five of them, who were immediately released on bail. At a press conference after the attack, Hope FM owner Stanley Bangura said the assailants told the police they had no regrets and would keep doing it until the radio station ceased to exist.

Hope FM has sustained a major attack that clearly targeted its independence, a totally unacceptable attack on press freedom. The investigation opened by the police must be brought to a full conclusion and must result in all those responsible being brought to justice.

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

Bangura said he was attacked by a man calling himself “Babah Bio” who described himself as a senior SLPP official in Bombali, the Northern Province district of which Makeni is the capital. He told the police that as long as his party was in power, he would be able to “do anything.” He also said SLPP members were pressuring the owner of the premises used by the radio station to evict it because of its independent and critical editorial positions.

 Violence against journalists in Sierra Leone had declined in recent years, but several journalists have been attacked in the past few months, especially during the run-up to the presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections held in June.

 The victims included BBC correspondent Umaru Fofana, who was harassed and threatened by supporters of the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) while covering an APC event on 14 June. In March, SLPP supporters attacked Radio Fountain of Peace reporter Alie Melvin Tokowa while he was covering an SLPP event, causing him to lose consciousness.

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