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Sierra Leone Journalists Call for Release of Detained Colleague

FILE - Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, left, is handed the keys to an ambulance by U.S. Embassy representative Kathleen FitzGibbon, center, one of five ambulances donated by the U.S. to help combat the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists has called on President Ernest Bai Koroma’s government to either release radio talk show host David Tam Baryoh or hospitalize him because they say his life is at risk.

Kelvin Lewis, president of the association, said Tam Baryoh suffers from high blood pressure and his wife said prison officials have denied her permission to deliver his medicine.

VOA made numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach Sierra Leone Minister of Information Alpha Kanu for comment.

Published reports say Tam Baryoh, who hosts the weekly broadcast Monologue on Citizen FM, was arrested after a guest criticized the government’s handling of the Ebola epidemic.

Basic human rights

Lewis said his group is calling on the government to respect Tam Baryoh’s basic human rights.

“The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists is very, very worried now because David Tam Baryoh is sick. He’s suffering from hypertension," Lewis said.

"I was there when the doctor took his blood pressure, and it was over 220. The doctor had said that he should be hospitalized, but then he’s been taken to the Correctional Center,” he said.

Lewis said his association does not think there is a medical facility at the Correctional Center to treat Tam Baryoh’s condition.

Lewis said he visited Tam Baryoh Wednesday at the Criminal Investigation Department, where he had been detained overnight and he confirmed that his arrest had been ordered by Koroma.

“He told me police officers had gone to his office and invited him, and when [he] got to the headquarters of the CID, they showed him an executive warrant signed by the president on the allegations that he had committed an offense, which was incitement, and it was because of that he was being detained,” Lewis said.

Government, media relations

Lewis described relations between the government and the media as changing from hot to cold.

“We’ve had journalists arrested and locked up. In fact, for a very long time, we’ve have journalists who were convicted of criminal libel. The relationship is hot and cold. Sometimes we’re fine, sometimes we’re not,” Lewis said.

He said members of the association are worried because they don’t want Tam Baryoh to die in prison.

“When I spoke to the wife this afternoon, she was at the gates of the prison and she was attempting to take David’s high blood pressure medicine to him for him to take so that it will help his health condition," Lewis said. "But, I understand, the prison authorities refused. And this is why we are very, very worried at this point (in) time (about) what is happening to him. We’re calling on the government to either release him or hospitalize (him). We don’t want (him) to die, Lewis said.

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