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Sierra Leone26 January 2004

Police raid independent daily: three journalists attacked

Reporters Without Borders condemned as "brutal" a raid by dozens of police officers on the premises of the independent daily Awoko in the capital Freetown on 21 January. Three journalists were manhandled.

The raid came after three journalists working for the newspaper went to the scene of an accident during a police operation against illegal street sellers in which a police car had collided with another vehicle.

Following a tip-off to the paper, less than 50 metres away, the three began taking photos. The police warned them off and followed them back to their offices. Headed by assistant police chief Momodu Bangura, several dozen police then raided the offices and destroyed equipment. Three journalists, Austin Thomas, Sylvester Suallay and Junior John, were assaulted.

The following day the police returned to the newspaper after it published details of the street incident and of the raid in its morning edition. They threatened to arrest members of the newspaper’s management.

"We strongly condemn these brutal methods, which are unworthy of a country that claims to respects the rule of law after ten years of war. The security forces should allow the press to work in complete freedom," said Reporters Without Borders.

"The government should quickly call the police to order and take steps to ensure that press freedom in Sierra Leone is guaranteed," it added.

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