Hate Speech in The Wake of Military Arrests


By: Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

Over the past two weeks, Sierra Leoneans have found themselves on edge due to reports of military arrests and discussions surrounding alleged subversion by military personnel. Amidst these reports, a surge of fake news and hate speech has emerged, further intensifying an already contentious issue.

Social media platforms have been inundated with viral messages featuring an image of Colonel Musa Bangura, a military officer, accompanied by implicit threats related to his alleged involvement in a supposed military takeover.

In response, the police issued a statement confirming the arrest of several military officers suspected of planning actions that could disrupt the peace and stability of the state, potentially leading to violence. The details of the arrests were elaborated upon during a joint press briefing, attended by the Chief of Defense Staff and the Inspector General of Police.

According to the Inspector General of Police, William Fayia Sellu, those apprehended include 8 midlevel military officers, 6 non-commissioned military officers, 2 current police officers, 1 former Police Superintendent (arrested by the Liberian government), and 2 civilians. However, official identities have yet to be disclosed despite multiple inquiries.

Regrettably, the allegations have fueled an outpouring of hate speech both in support of and against the arrested individuals. This alarming trend has taken hold online, fostering a hazardous environment barely a month after the recent election.

Due to the explicit and provocative language contained in these materials, the SLAJ/NDI newsroom has chosen not to directly share the links. Nonetheless, the individuals responsible for creating or disseminating these posts will be acknowledged.

While numerous such materials exist, two have been singled out for attention due to their widespread circulation, partly attributed to their viral nature. The prominence of these materials has led to their selection for examination.

CASE 1- A TikTok user with the handle @mikebayoh1 posted a video last week that drew significant attention. The video featured a barrage of invective language aimed at those perceived to support the alleged government overthrow. Notably, the invectives were extended to leaders of the All Peoples Congress Party, including former President Ernest Koroma and current party leader Dr. Samura Kamara.

This video was also shared by prominent social media activist Dr. John Idriss Lahai, accumulating over 12,000 views on his Facebook page. Likewise, @mikebayoh1’s TikTok account received over 11,000 views for the video. This surge in viewership occurred within days of posting, with the video quickly becoming the most-watched on the channel.

CASE 2- Last week, a writer known as Abu Shaw published an article on TheOrganiser.net, alleging that some of the arrested officers had already been killed. The article contained numerous disparaging accusations and provocative statements, none of which were substantiated with quotations or evidence.

Both Abu Shaw and Mike Bayoh share the commonality of residing outside the country.

In the midst of a tense post-election atmosphere, an escalating number of similar materials laden with invectives and hate speech are disseminated online. Such content could potentially exacerbate existing divisions and kindle the flames of dangerous unrest.


NOTE: This Hate Speech Alert article is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens have access to credible and accurate information.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

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