In what reporters in Sierra Leone denounced as an abuse of the government’s emergency powers to deal with the spread of Ebola, one of the country’s most prominent broadcast journalists was detained this week after he devoted a segment of his popular radio program to a critical discussion of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s handling of the outbreak.
The radio host, David Tam-Baryoh, was arrested on Monday following a broadcast of his weekly program “Monologue” on the independent station Citizen FM.
Listeners in Freetown told the Committee to Protect Journaliststhat Saturday’s episode was interrupted after Mr. Tam-Baryoh interviewed an opposition spokesman who criticized the president’s response to the Ebola crisis and his supposed interest in seeking a third term in office.
According to Umaru Fofana, who reports for the BBC and the Freetown news site Politico, a senior police official said that Mr. Tam-Baryoh was arrested as a result of “an executive order signed by his excellency the president.” The same officer said that the detention would last “until it pleases his excellency” to release the reporter.
On Thursday, Mr. Fofana reported that Mr. Tam-Baryoh’s wife had been denied access to him, and that the police raided his office and confiscated equipment.
Mohamed Massaquoi, a local newspaper editor who is the president of the Sierra Leone Reporters Union, denounced the arrest as an abuse of the president’s powers. In an interview with Daniel Finnan of Radio France International, he said, “We are under health emergency, we are not under public emergency.”