A Sierra Leonean gay rights activist narrowly escaped death when two unidentified assailants attacked him in his car.
George Reginald Freeman, executive director of Pride Equality, had his car destroyed as he was being beaten by two men on a motorbike who intercepted him while driving in an isolated suburb of the capital, Freetown, late last week.
The incident happened on the same day a local tabloid, Exclusive Newspaper, ran a feature on Freeman, entitled, ‘I was born a gay’, the first time local media ran a story about an openly gay person.
The article was done without Freeman’s approval and without speaking to him, rather it was based on a UK MTV Voices program, which was aired in July last year, detailing his life in a hostile environment and having to deal with an intolerant family.
Freeman denied speaking to the paper he blamed for essentially publicly outing and ‘inciting’ hate against him.
Following the publication Freeman received anti-gay hate messages and threats and as a precautionary measure against a possible attack he drove to a local hotel, for temporary hiding.
‘I was afraid that an attack was imminent and I thought the best move was to stay away from my apartment,’ he said.
He was half way through to his destination when a motorbike rider suddenly appeared in front of him. At the same time a second one appeared on the driver`s side and threw a heavy stone his way.
The glass on both sides of his car windows was shattered.
As he attempted to escape, he was intercepted and beaten up, with his attackers using broken glasses and sharp metal objects.
‘All calls for help from passers-by fell on deaf ears,’ he lamented.
Police handling the case showed Africa Review the homophobic messages left in the abandoned car after the incident was reported.
One reads: ‘We know you people. We are coming after you, you bloody homosexuals.’ Another one reads: ‘This is just the beginning!’
The police officer in charge of the case said they were investigating the matter.
The newspaper feature came just days after the first ever report on LGBT people in Sierra Leone was released, revealing ingrained discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.
Freeman told Africa Review that he had lodged a complaint at the Criminal Investigations Department of the Sierra Leone Police on Wednesday regarding the ‘inciting’ publication.
Editors at Exclusive Newspaper said they wanted to open the debate on gay rights, which is a very divisive topic in the country and deny they sought to hurt anyone.
But Freeman’s organization insists that the paper should have known better, saying he has received anti-gay hate messages and threats following the publication of the story.