2 Journalists Detained For "Insulting" Sierra Leone President
Two journalists have been detained for insulting
Sierra Leone`s President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Officials from the Criminal Investigation Department
arrested the managing Editor of the Independent
Observer newspaper, Jonathan Leigh and his news
editor Bai Bai Sesay over an article comparing the
President to a rat.
The article, titled "Who is molesting who: Ernest or
Sam Sumana", was addressing the feud between the
president and his vice.
The two have been involved in a bitter succession
battle that is worsening by the day.
Mr Leigh is seen as one of the VP`s supporters in the
His controversial article accused the President of
betraying his VP by seeking to do away with him
despite the latter bankrolling his 2007 election.
It said President Koroma was abusing the country’s
constitution and becoming a dictator and "behaving
like a rat and should be treated like one”.
The article claimed the President was complicit in
setting up his VP for ridicule, including in last year`s
infamous Al Jazeera documentary linking Mr Sumana
"Chief Sumana being discreet and charismatic; he
pretends not to know what the President was
planning for him. In actual sense, he was notified by
the very people the President speaks to about setting
Chief Sumana up, molest and humiliate him so the
public would despise him when it comes to the
administration of the country. Even the Timber gate
and the Aljazeera crisis according to information was
a plot hatched by President Koroma to paint Chief
Sumana...," part of the article reads.
Sources described a seriously angry President
Koroma who through his personal attorney
demanded an apology and a retraction of the
The fight between the two has since spilled over to
the public through the media.
Last week there were reports that President Kororma
allegedly ordered that Hajj pilgrims recommended
by the VP for government sponsorship be left
stranded at the airport.
The presidential feud took an even more serious turn
with the reported boycott of Cabinet meeting by the
VP this week.
Supporters of the president interpreted that as an
open defiance to his authority and part of a plot to
gain sympathy by the VP.
Until Saturday evening, Mr Leigh and his editor were
still at the CID headquarters.
The pair were said to be on their way to the office of
the Independent Media Commission, which had
invited them for questioning following the
publication on Thursday when they were arrested.
The head of the CID was cited saying they were been
interrogated and their findings would be sent to the
office of the Attorney General for legal adviser on
Meanwhile, while many agree that the journalists
may have gone a little too far in their article, their
arrest has however raised a number of questions.
Who ordered it?
In addition, there is the issue of ‘selective justice’,
with critics asking why a similarly offensive article
against the VP by the pro-government Awareness
Times newspaper has been ignored.
The Awareness Times is owned and published by the
Special Executive Assistant to the President, Sylvia
Blyden, who also serves as his de factor
She has been accused of ‘lying’ that the journalists
were detained after an official complaint was filed by
the Attorney General.
Some would want to believe the President ordered
The “VP’s boycott of this week’s Cabinet meeting was
boastfully publicized to gain sympathy. But, it
boomeranged as it made many to realize that VP is
too much in a haste to be President of Sierra Leone;
to extent of folks publicly opening up fronts against
his boss,” the Awareness Times read in part.
Ms Blyden was criticised by international media
watchdog recently for promising a crackdown on
journalists who are critical of the government.