Newspaper editor harassed

New York, October 8, 2003—Paul Kamara, founding editor of Sierra Leone’s popular For Di People newspaper, has been detained by police three times since Friday, October 3, in connection with that day’s lead story.

According to news reports, on October 3, police arrested Kamara, held him for six hours at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), and questioned him about the article, which stated that President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was a convict and constitutionally unfit to hold office. The paper has 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 on Saturday. According to Kamara, he spent several more hours at CID headquarters on Saturday. The police summoned him again on Tuesday 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.

Today, Kamara said that the police told him to return to CID headquarters 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 a six-month prison sentence for defaming a local judge last year, could be charged under Sierra Leone’s repressive criminal laws.