Sierra Leone ALERT: Female journalists taken hostage over reports on FGM

Friday, February 13, 2009

Four journalists in Kanema, a town of about 200km from Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, were on February 7, 2009 taken hostage by members of Bondo Society, a traditional female group, over reports on female genital mutilation (FGM).

Manjama Balama-Samba, Henrietta Kpaka of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and their colleagues, Isha Jalloh and Jenneh Brima of Eastern Radio were picked up and detained in a bush for more than two and a half hours for allegedly filing reports on their respective stations about the practice of FGM in the town.   

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that the journalists were allegedly stripped naked and mistreated. They were paraded through the streets and taken to the palace of Amara Bonya Vangahun, the paramount chief of the town. The family support unit of Sierra Leone later intervened and had them released.

The correspondent said Haja Massah Kaisamba, leader the Society, justified on radio, the treatment meted out to the journalists. The leader insisted that the journalists were detained following unfavourable comments they made on their stations about FGM. She threatened further action against such anti-FGM campaigns. The four journalists have denied the allegations.

Prior to the attacks, Balama Samba who also works with the United Nations Radio had received threats on February 6 from the women’s group.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread condemnation of the attack on the journalists.

MFWA calls on the police to investigate the matter and deal decisively with the leadership of the Bondo society, whose action is barbaric and defies all civility. We call on the Sierra Leonean authorities to condemn the action.

Media Foundation for West Africa