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CPJ: Sierra Leone politician shoves journalist Abdulai Gbla in parliament

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On June 28, 2022, Abdul Muniru Lansana, a member of Sierra Leone’s parliament, pushed Abdulai Gbla, CEO of the privately owned broadcaster Gbla TV Online, as the journalist filmed legislators at the country’s parliament building in Freetown, the capital, according to Gbla, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and a report by the Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional press freedom group.

Lansana also tried to throw Gbla’s phone, which he was using to film, to the ground, the journalist told CPJ, saying he was able to keep control of his camera but was forced to stop filming.

The incident took place while Gbla filmed members of parliament arguing after a hearing on the country’s new currency, when some of the politicians attempted to stop him, saying that the hearing had ended and there was no more news to report, he told CPJ.

In a phone interview, Lansana told CPJ that he believed the discussion among members of parliament was cordial, and said he stopped the journalist from filming because the session had ended, and he believed further recording would prevent parliament members from conducting cordial discussions.

The journalist said he refused to stop filming until Lansana pushed him so hard he struggled to stand upright, and then other members of parliament intervened and escorted Gbla out of the building.

While discussing the incident during a July 7 interview with privately owned broadcaster Epic Radio, Lansana confirmed pushing Gbla, whom he accused of trespassing, but added that he did not intend to fight with the journalist, only to ensure that he left the premises. Lansana also cited his displeasure with Gbla TV’s coverage of him in 2020. In a report that year, Gbla TV described Lansana as securing his position through a court decision, rather than an electoral victory.

When CPJ asked how the 2020 Gbla TV report influenced his behavior, Lansana declined to comment.

After the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists sent a letter on Gbla’s behalf to the parliament’s clerk, the clerk apologized to Gbla and promised to investigate the incident, the journalist told CPJ.

CPJ called and texted the clerk, Umarr Paran Tarawally, for comment on various phone numbers, but the calls did not connect and text messages failed to deliver.

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