New York, October 4, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that journalist Paul Kamara remains in jail in Sierra Leone a year after being convicted of “seditious libel” for articles criticizing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Kamara was convicted on October 5, 2004, and sent to Pademba Road Prison in the capital, Freetown, to serve a two-year sentence. Local and international press freedom groups have repeatedly called for his release.
“President Kabbah’s government should not hold Paul Kamara in prison one day longer,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Sierra Leone is one of the very few countries in Africa that has sentenced a journalist to prison for doing his work. This is not what one expects to see in a democratic country.”
Kamara, editor and publisher of the independent daily For Di People, was convicted of two counts of seditious libel under the 1965 Public Order Act. The charges dated from October 2003, and stemmed from articles in For Di People alleging that President Kabbah was a “convict” and constitutionally unfit to hold office. The articles focused on a 1967 Commission of Inquiry report that allegedly implicated Kabbah in embezzlement of public funds.
Kamara’s lawyer, J.O.D. Cole, told CPJ that he filed documents with the Appeals Court on October 22, 2004, seeking to have the conviction overturned. The appeal has still not been heard, and Kamara’s requests for bail pending the appeal have been turned down.
Harry Yansaneh, the editor who stepped in to head For Di People, died in July, two months after being brutally beaten in an attack allegedly ordered by Member of Parliament Fatmata Hassan. An inquest found that the attack contributed to his death from kidney failure, and the magistrate ordered the arrest of Hassan and two others. They were released on bail after a brief detention.
“So many protests have been made to the government, but Paul is still in jail when all he did was exercise his constitutional rights and express his opinion,” Kamara’s wife, Isatu, told CPJ.