Two journalists killed by gunmen; two others wounded

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New York, May 24, 2000 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the latest murderous attack on journalists in Sierra Leone, which claimed the lives of two western journalists and left two others injured on Wednesday, according to news agencies and CPJ’s sources in Freetown.

Veteran war correspondent Kurt Schork of Reuters was one of those killed, in what sources reported was an apparent ambush carried out by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The other murdered journalist was Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, a cameraman-producer with the Associated Press

“These journalists are victims of a group of murderous thugs, who for years have deliberately targeted local reporters and foreign correspondents covering the Sierra Leone conflict,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. Since 1997, 13 journalists have been killed by Sierra Leone’s rebel forces, according to CPJ’s research. Most were local journalists, hunted down in reprisal for their reporting. “It’s time the RUF and its leader, Foday Sankoh, were held accountable for these deadly assaults, whose aim is to eliminate independent reporting on one of the world’s worst civil conflicts,” said Cooper.

Schork, 53, was one of four journalists traveling in two vehicles with soldiers from the Sierra Leone Army (SLA), when RUF forces opened fire on them east of Rogberi Junction, local journalists told CPJ. The ambush took place in an area that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent days, between rebels and pro-government forces. Four SLA soldiers were killed in the incident.

The two wounded journalists worked for Reuters: television cameraman Mark Chisholm and photographer Yannis Behrakis. Chisholm and Behrakis received first-aid assistance at a local hospital run by United Nations peacekeepers before they were evacuated to Indian Field Hospital in Freetown, where they remain in stable condition, according to CPJ’s sources.

Despite a peace agreement signed last year, fighting resumed early in May when RUF rebels abducted 500 UN peacekeepers and then launched an advance toward Freetown. Government forces have been slowly pushing the rebels away from the capital since then.



CPJ: “RUF Deliberately Targeted Local Reporters And Foreign Correspondents For Years”

New York, May 25, 2000 -A total of 15 journalists have been killed in Sierra Leone since 1997 because of their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more than any other country in the world during that time period. Most of those killed were local reporters, and several of those were hunted down in direct reprisal for their reporting.

The latest journalist victims of Sierra Leone’s bloody civil strife are veteran war correspondent Kurt Schork of Reuters, an American, and cameraman-producer Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, of Associated Press Television News, who is from Spain. The two were killed on May 24 in an apparent ambush carried out by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) near Rogberi Junction, 54 miles northeast of Freetown, according to CPJ sources.

While journalists in Sierra Leone, including foreign correspondents, have been attacked by virtually every party to the conflict, RUF rebels and their allies are responsible for the murder of at least 13 of those who died since 1997. This includes eight journalists slain during the rebels’ three-week invasion of the capital Freetown in January 1999. On May 3, CPJ put RUF leader Foday Sankoh at the top of its list of Ten Worst Enemies of the Press.

“Covering wars is a dangerous business,” notes CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “But most journalists killed in Sierra Leone did not die in the crossfire. They were murdered by RUF forces, in several cases clearly because of their critical reporting. The RUF actions violate Sierra Leonian law, the laws of war, and the most minimum standards of civilized behavior. Now that Foday Sankoh is in the custody of United Nations forces, he and the senior leadership of the RUF must be held accountable for their brutal conduct, including the deaths of 13 journalists.”

While the RUF’s murderous anti-media campaign remains unequaled in Sierra Leone, the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and the West African ECOMOG peacekeeping forces are also responsible for the deaths of journalists.

Below is the full list of the 15 journalists killed in Sierra Leone since 1997:

Kurt Schork, a war correspondent for Reuters, and Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, a cameraman-producer with the Associated Press, were ambushed and killed on May 24 by RUF rebels near Rogberi Junction, 54 miles from the capital Freetown, while traveling by car with soldiers from the Sierra Leone army.

Saoman Conteh, a reporter for the Freetown-based weekly New Tablet, was killed on May 8, 2000, when RUF fighters opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators who were protesting the resumption of hostilities outside the Freetwon residence of RUF leader Foday Sankoh.

Conrad Roy, editor of the banned, allegedly pro-RUF Expo Times, died on April 30, 1999, after contacting tuberculosis in Freetown’s central prison where he was being held by the elected Sierra Leone government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbha on charges of treason, aiding and abetting the enemy, and conspiring to overthrow the government.

Abdulai Jumah Jalloh
, a news editor African Champion, was killed on February 3, 1999, reportedly by ECOMOG peace-keeping soldiers. The journalist was on his way to a printing company in downtown Freetown when a passerby accused him of being a RUF member. ECOMOG soldiers present at the scene immediately stopped and shot the journalist.

Senior sports reporter Alpha Amadu Bah, who worked for the daily Independent Observer, was shot dead on January 17, 1999 while trying to escape a friend’s house set ablaze by RUF rebels and their then allies from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), who had come there looking for him.

Canadian journalist Myles Tierney, a Nairobi-based television producer for Associated Press Television News (APTV), was killed in Freetown on January 10, 1999 when his vehicle was sprayed with bullets by a RUF rebel with whom the journalist had had an exchange minutes earlier.

Popular on-air personality Jenner “J.C.” Cole, who hosted several phone-in programs on the private SKY-FM, was abducted from his Freetown home by RUF rebels on January 9, 1999. He was tortured and then shot dead while his fiancee was forced to watch.
Mohammed Kamara, a courtroom reporter for SKY-FM, was shot dead by RUF fighters on Freetown Siaka Steven Street on January 9, 1999, apparently for having covered the trial of rebels accused of treason by the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah after it was reinstated in March 1998.
The charred bodies of Paul Mansaray, deputy editor of the independent Standard Times, his wife and their two young children, were found in the ruins of his Freetown home which was set ablaze by RUF fighters on January 9, 1999. The rebels reportedly kept firing into the house as it burned down with Mansaray and his family inside.

On January 9, 1999, a female RUF commander abducted Mabay Kamara, a free-lancer who wrote regularly for the now-defunct Vision newspaper, from his Freetown home and unloaded her semiautomatic rifle on his defenseless body while his wife was forced to watch.

Free-lance reporter Munir Turay, who often wrote for the state-operated Daily Mail and the private Punch newspaper, was shot in the back around January 9, 1999. The exact date and circumstances of his death remain unclear, but colleagues who attended his funerals were in no doubt that he had been murdered by RUF rebels because of his work.

Nigerian journalist James Ogogo, who reported on the civil war for the independent Freetown-based Concord Times, was murdered by RUF gunmen on the evening of January 8, 1999. An eyewitness reported that a group rebels sought out Ogogo at his newspaper’s office, shouting that they were “looking for the Nigerian journalist.”

BBC correspondent Edward Smith, a native of Sierra Leone, was shot dead on April 13, 1998, when RUF fighters ambushed a convoy of West African peace-keeping forces in which the journalist was traveling. Smith was reporting from the trenches in Makeni and Kono districts, northeast of the capital Freetown.

Free-lance reporter Ishmael Jalloh, who regularly contributed to Punch, Storm, and Vision, killed June 3, 1997, was shot dead while covering a gun battle in Allentown, near Freetown, between RUF rebels and West-African peace-keeping forces, ECOMOG. Jalloh was doing his job under ECOMOG protection when a bullet hit him. He was pronounced dead on the spot.