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Minister orders arrest of several newspaper journalists

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 13 December 2010, four Freetown-based independent newspaper journalists were arrested and detained by the police on the orders of Allieu Pat Sowe, the country's Minister of Lands.

The journalists, Abdul Rahman Kamara, Razrok Wurie, Sheik Unisa Thoronka and Alfred Koroma of "Torchlight", "Satellite", "Global Times" and "African Champion", respectively, have since been relesead and are on police enquiry bail.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that the journalists had gone to the ministry to investigate alleged fraud allegations contained in an audit report about the ministry. The correspondent said when the minister saw the documents, he accused them of illegally possessing a classified document.

Three journalists, Wurie, Thoronka and Korama were released "temporarily" after spending about five hours in police custody, but they were subsequently re-arrested. All four were released later at about 20h00 GMT upon the intervention of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).

"SLAJ categorically condemns this act of a minister ordering the arrest of journalists who are investigating an issue of national importance and public interest", says SLAJ President Umaru Fofana. He urged the police not to undermine the investigation by the journalists into the apparent disappearance of tens of thousands of US dollars of the ICF funds to the lands ministry as contained in said audit report.

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