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The beating up of Awoko Newspaper journalists by some Military Officers who purportedly dashed to the scene of rescuing the Defense Minister, Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh, who was attacked by ex-combatants tagged as WIA’s is considered as unprofessional, irrational and brutal. (Photo: Ex-soldiers, (WIA) demonstrating at Cotton Tree, Central Freetown, Sierra Leone.)
Brutal, the journalists were only doing their noble job and did not create the scene, soldiers and ex-soldiers did, which means either part of the protesters or the Defense Security system. The Defense Security officers were dashing to the scene to rescue the Minister from the scuffle between him and WIA’s when news hunters (journalists) rushed to unearth information and disseminate it with the obligation to inform the people of this country with first hand information and the truth.
Unprofessional, much was expected of the Military Officers, as their mandate is to protect citizens, uphold and maintain the rule of law in a disciplined and well-mannered pattern.
Irrational, one is tempted to ask what is the difference between soldiers classed as chronically ill; tagged WIA’s and those considered as sane Military Officers? Or is it a paradox of the later , those tagged as active and sane behaving in a manner that shames the level of rationality that should be seen exhibited by the Defense Security team, they should have considered the Minister’s unwise decision to address irate and disgruntled ex-soldiers with scrod faces demanding their lot.
When will the culture of bashing journalists by state institutions stop, when will those with the government boot respect the fourth estate for its own contribution to nation building?
As journalists, we are not discipled to support violence, especially one directed to a state man of the person of the Defense Minister. The question seems to be doing the round is; how secure is the nation’s security if the Minister of Defense was attacked in the open, what is the security of the ordinary Sierra Leonean?
Sources say the Minister Palo Conteh was only calming down the aggrieved ex-soldiers to restrain patience as the Ministry of Finance is fast tracking their payment, when it was decoded wrongly by the WIA’s who rushed to physically attack and manhandle the minister.
Before the Defense Security Team rushed to the scene some disgruntled ex-servicemen had successfully evacuated the scene but a few others were arrested.
Though conflicting reports seem to disclaim what was said by the minister, by and large we are saying such behavior served as a bad omen for people of this nation.
If we are to option blame, we would say a series of protest actions by these WIA’s such as the protest tagged “Operation Pay Yourself” was a pointer that something was about to run loose but our security agency seems to be acting against all professional etiquette.
It is no disrespect to our security institutions but we urge them to direct resources to treat any snitches, every mole seriously as treating security threats with levity has most often been the case why certain security institutions have failed in their duties, not the other way round, beating-up journalists who in many cases report the news not make the news.
By E. Awotelli-Cole
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