Journalist unions slam expulsion to Sierra Leone

26th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

26 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Journalist unions have strongly criticised the decision by the Dutch authorities to deport a journalist back to his native Sierra Leone.

26 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — Journalist unions have strongly criticised the decision by the Dutch authorities to deport a journalist back to his native Sierra Leone.

Ernest A. Mason has been fighting for asylum in the Netherlands since he fled his West African home in 1998. He claims his name was on a death list of "unreliable journalists".

Mason, a former journalist with the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Services (SLBS), set up a website (sierrawatch.com) after arriving in the Netherlands in which he criticised the Sierra Leonean government. Journalists there face jail and intimidation for voicing anti-government sentiments.

His asylum application was turned down. Mason — who has suffered serious heart and liver complaints — was arrested in Eindhoven in March for not having valid identification papers and was imprisoned in Tilburg, pending deportation.

Within days of his case being highlighted on Expatica, Mason was informed by his lawyer Saskia den Boer that his final avenue of appeal had been closed off with a decision by the Raad van Staat, or Council of State, against granting him a hearing.

As he is a rejected asylum seeker, he faces deportation.

Lawyer Den Boer said in order to qualify for a hearing before the Raad van Staat, applicants had to prove a case of "public interest". It was considered there was no public interest in Mason's case.

The International Federation of Journalists, a global umbrella organisation which includes almost 150 different journalist unions from over 100 different countries, voiced concern on Tuesday about the case.

"Since 1999, 15 journalists have been killed in Sierra Leone.  Many were caught in the line of fire between the Revolutionary United Front rebels and the West African peacekeeping force," IFJ spokesman Robert Shaw told Expatica.

"No real investigation has ever been carried out by the local authorities and nothing has been done to track down and punish those responsible."

Shaw said journalists who reveal state corruption are targeted and driven into the margins of a silent world of censorship and fear. In the past few months alone, the IFJ has witnessed a continued assault by the authorities who use libel laws and the courts to target errant journalists."

The Dutch journalists union (NVJ) has also attacked the planned deportation. "It is putting him at risk in a country where journalists, doing their work, are being arrested and mistreated, according to recent reports from the Committee to Protect Journalist," Thomas Bruning of the NVJ said.

The Immigration and Integration Ministry in The Hague was asked to comment about Mason's case, but is yet to respond.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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