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Sierra Leone leader orders arrest of Ebola talk show host

05 November 2014, 17:21

Freetown - Sierra Leone said Wednesday it was holding a journalist in a maximum security prison after a guest on his radio show criticised President Ernest Bai Koroma's handling of the Ebola outbreak.

David Tam Baryoh, host of the weekly "Monologue" programme on the private Citizen FM, was arrested on Tuesday and sent to Freetown's notorious Pademba Road jail.

"The detention came from an executive order which was signed by President Ernest Koroma and it was executed by the police," said government spokesman Abdulai Bayratay.

"The president has the power to do this under the public order state of emergency regulations which were approved by parliament in July. In essence some freedom and civic freedoms have been curtailed."

The arrest followed Baryoh's show being taken off air during a live broadcast on November 1, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), citing local media.

Baryoh had interviewed an opposition party spokesman who criticised Koroma and his government's handling of the Ebola outbreak.

The host and his guest both also criticised Koroma's intention to run for a third term in office, according to local media.

Also read: Sierra Leone leader: Change behavior to end Ebola 

Bayratay didn't specify the charges against Baryoh but said anyone who "obstructs, incites or has the tendency to undermine the efforts of government" to fight the epidemic is liable for arrest.

Pademba Road was built for 324 inmates but currently houses around 1,200. Government health experts have linked deaths among prisoners to acute malnutrition, lack of hygienic conditions, malaria and heart failure.

Baryoh suffers from high blood pressure, according to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, which urged the authorities to provide "urgent medical attention".

The organisation said Baryoh had been examined in custody by a doctor who was recommending that he be placed in hospital "to avoid a crisis".

Sierra Leone is one of the nations worst affected by the largest Ebola outbreak on record, with more than 1,500 deaths.

"Sierra Leone's genuine state of emergency means that critical thinking and public debate are more important than ever. Locking away journalists without charge helps nobody," said Peter Nkanga, the CPJ's west Africa representative.

"We call on President Ernest Bai Koroma to ensure that David Tam Baryoh is released immediately and that journalists are allowed to do their jobs freely."



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