Sierra Leone: SLPP Aspirant Threatens to Close Down Radio Station

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Hon. Ansu Kaikai of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Friday allegedly threatened to shut down Radio Wanjei in Pujehun and have its Station Manager arrested if he allowed members of the People's Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) in the Diaspora to sensitize its membership about the August polls on the radio.

The SLPP parliamentary candidate for Pujehun district, who is facing an uphill task to retain his seat, ordered the Station Manager to either call off the programme or the police would arrest him. Patrick Samu, a youth activist in Pujehun stated that after 45 minutes of fruitful discussion on the way forward for the district and why the people should vote PMDC and not the ruling SLPP, the radio suddenly went off air.

"The programme was immediately stopped and the panelists were informed that the programme cannot be continued because Ansu Kaikai said so. The group, all senior members of the opposition PMDC, had a two hour contract with the management of the station to sensitize the people of Pujehun about the elections through telephone conferencing," Samu said.

This is the second attack against the freedom of the press in less than a week, a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Sierra Leone is a signatory. Five days ago, the editor of Freetown's Standard Times newspaper, Philip Neville, was arrested and charged with seditious libel. Sylvester Suaray, a member of PMDC who was one of the callers from London stated that all the programme did was inform the people what the SLPP failed do for the past 10 years.

"We reminded our people of the fact that our district was the first to be free of rebels but yet still there is no development in the district. The houses are falling down despite the fact that the SLPP promised them roofing to rebuild their houses. When several villages were flooded couple of years ago, all President Kabbah could offer them was 4 bags of rice and a bag of sugar," Suaray said.

The PMDC has lodged an informal complaint to the Director of Community Radio Network (CORNET), Isaac Massaquoi noting how Kaikai disrupted their programme. CORNET was the organization that established Radio Wanjei. Hon. Kaikai told Concord Times that the callers on the programme, who are based outside the jurisdiction of the country, were making wide allegations about the government and the SLPP. "As a trustee of the station I called the manager to suggest to him if they are recording the programme. The person in charge told that all their recorders were faulty. I advised them to use their professionalism in order to avoid slander," he said, adding that the person in charge stopped the programme.

(Concord Times (Freetown), 3 July 2007)