New York, November 24, 2003—Heavily armed police this morning 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 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.
“It is outrageous that excessive fines are being used to close a newspaper,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on Sierra Leonean authorities to allow For Di People to resume operations immediately.”
Kamara was detained several times following an October 3, 2003 article in For Di People, which stated that President Ahmad 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.