SIERRA LEONE


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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press




OCTOBER 3, 2003
Posted: October 8, 2003

Paul Kamara, For Di People
HARASSED

Kamara, founding editor of Sierra Leone's popular For Di People newspaper, was arrested by the police, held for six hours at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), and questioned about an October 3 article, which stated that President Ahmed Tejjan Kabbah was a convict and constitutionally unfit to hold office. The paper had also been serializing verbatim a 1967 Commission of Inquiry report that found Kabbah guilty of perjury.

Kamara said that before being released, police ordered him to return the next day. According to Kamara, he spent several more hours at CID headquarters on October 4. The police summoned him again on October 7 and questioned him for four hours about the newspaper's operations, including where it was printed, and whether he was using his publication to incite violence among Sierra Leoneons.

Kamara said that the police told him to return to CID headquarters on October 8 with columnist Jia Kangbai, who had also commented on Kabbah's fitness to be president. However, Kamara said they did not go because they believe Sierra Leone's independent media commission, not the police, should handle press issues.

Local journalists fear that Kamara, who has already served four months of a six-month prison sentence for defaming a local judge last year, could be charged under Sierra Leone's repressive criminal laws.

OCTOBER 10, 2003
Posted: October 14, 2003

Paul Kamara, For Di People
IMPRISONED

Kamara, managing editor of the For Di People newspaper, was detained along with Joseph Charles, manager of the John Love Printing Press, which prints the paper. The next day, Lovette Charles, the owner of the printing press, and Brima Sesay, its chief printer, were also detained.

That same day, all four were brought before a magistrate's court and charged with seditious libel under the 1965 Public Order Act. The charges stem from an October 3 article in the paper implying that President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is a convict.

Since October 9, For Di People has been unable to print. Some other newspapers have also been unable to appear because John Love Printing Press managers were detained.

Bail was set at Le50 million ($20,408), which none of the detainees was able to pay. They were sent to prison after the hearing. Local journalists told CPJ they are concerned for the health of Lovette Charles, who is elderly and suffers from a heart condition. The four were ordered to reappear in court on Thursday, October 16.

Kamara has been detained several times since October 3, when For Di People ran a front-page story reporting that a 1967 Commission of Inquiry had found President Kabbah guilty of fraud, according to an editor at the paper. The paper has also been serializing verbatim the report of the commission, known as the Beoku Betts Commission, which examined fraud allegations at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board at a time when Kabbah helped oversee the board as a Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade.

Kamara has already served four months of a six-month prison sentence after being convicted of criminal libel in November 2002 for defaming a local judge.
On Thursday, October 9, a High Court ordered Kamara to pay Le61 million ($24,898) in damages and costs following a civil suit in the same case. He was ordered to pay within 24 hours but was unable to do so. His family and colleagues fear that his assets could now be seized.
do so. His family and colleagues fear that his assets could now be seized.

NOVEMBER 24, 2003
Posted: November 24, 2003

For Di People

LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED

Heavily armed police confiscated all equipment belonging to the independent For Di People newspaper, in connection with a hefty damages award in a civil libel case. Editor Paul Kamara, who is also facing seditious libel charges in another case, was appearing in court at the time of the raid. He said police had taken computers, printers, desks, telephones, and even his car.

Kamara served four months of a six-month prison sentence after being convicted of criminal libel in November 2002 for defaming a local judge. On October 9, 2003, a High Court ordered him to pay Le61 million ($24,900) in damages and costs following a civil suit in the same case. He was ordered to pay within 24 hours but was unable to do so. Kamara said he was in detention at the time of the civil case ruling and that he had not been represented in court. He said he had never received any notice related to payment of the damages.

Kamara was detained several times following an October 3, 2003 article in For Di People, which stated that President Ahmed Tejjan Kabbah was a convict and constitutionally unfit to hold office. On October 10, he and three employees at the John Love Printing Press, which prints For Di People, were imprisoned and charged with seditious libel in connection with that article. They were released on Le50 million bail ($20,000) on November 11. The case has been adjourned to December 1.