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Sierra Leone10 February 2009

Four women journalists kidnapped, one subjected to public humiliation, by supporters of female genital mutilation

Reporters Without Borders is shocked and appalled by the abduction and intimidation of four women journalists in the eastern city of Kenema on 6 February by members of a women’s secret society that practices female genital mutilation (FGM). One of the journalists was forced to walk naked through the city’s streets.

“Such disgraceful behaviour worthy of a bygone age is very damaging to Sierra Leone’s image,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the president to personally intervene in this case to ensure that the perpetrators receive an exemplary punishment. We also urge the minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs, Haja Musu Kandeh, to take note of this incident, which is very traumatic for all women in Sierra Leone.”

The four reporters - Manjama Balama-Samba of the United Nations radio and the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), Henrietta Kpaka of the SLBS, Isha Jalloh of Eastern Radio and Jenneh Brima, also of Eastern Radio - were kidnapped on 6 February by members of Bondo, a secret society that practices FGM. The next day, their abductors forcibly undressed Balama-Samba and made her walk naked through the streets.

The journalists had been conducting a series of interviews jointly with the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices in order to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation, which was celebrated on 6 February for the 5th year running. The Bondo group regarded their questions and comments as a sign of disrespect for their traditions.

According to UN estimates, 94 per cent of women in Sierra Leone have been subjected to FGM. Sources in Sierra Leone put it at more like 65 per cent, partly as a result of the country’s Christians taking a stand against the practice. The government publicly undertook last year to adopt a law banning FGM but has not yet done so.

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