The Sierra Leone government has declared “wanted” a freelance Canadian journalist living and working in the country. The authorities say Nina Devries is wanted over a report for the Qatar-based television network, Al Jazeera, which they deemed as false.
Officials at the Ministry of Information and Communication said last week that Nina was being sought for her report on freedom of expression in the country in which she interviewed popular musician Emmerson Bockarie.
In the report aired by the network two weeks ago, Emmerson decried apparent government censorship against him since the release of his record-breaking album ‘Munku Boss Pan Marches.’
Agibu Jalloh, Outreach Coordinator at the Office of Government Spokesman in the Ministry of Information, said the report which went viral on social media was a fabrication. He told journalists at a press conference that the reporter made up some of the content of her report.
“We have been given the task to look for her; once we get hold of her we are going to question her for disseminating false information,” Jalloh said at the weekly government press briefing.
Emmerson has carved a niche for himself by focusing on protest songs. He denounces official corruption, especially among politicians.
In his latest album, released a few months ago, the artist mocked an unnamed powerful political figure who uses his power to amass wealth at the expense of the state.
That album, the biggest in the country’s pop music history, attracted condemnations from pro-government forces but acclamation from the general public.
In the Al Jazeera interview, the star artist further claimed that he’d received threats from politicians over the album.
The reporter added that the musician claimed he had been denied permission to launch his album in Freetown after several such launches upcountry attracted huge crowds.
This is not the first time the government of Ernest Bai Koroma is having issues with Al Jazeera. In 2011, government officials criticized it for an investigative piece which reveals violation of a ban on timber export at the top of the government and showed what appeared to be corrupt practice by some senior government officials.
Ms Devries is a freelance journalist with Al Jazeera and for some time now she has been based in the country, where she notably covered the Ebola epidemic. She also writes for the Voice of America, CBC and CCTV. It’s unclear if the journalist is currently is the country.