JANUARY 21, 2004
Posted: September 1, 2004
Sylvester Suaray, Awoko
Austin Thomas, Awoko
Police officers attacked Suaray and Thomas, both reporters for the
independent Awoko (which comes out five times a week), when they
attempted to report on a police scuffle near the newspaper's offices in
the capital, Freetown. At the time, a government-launched operation to
clear Freetown's streets of informal vendors had flooded the streets with
police. According to local sources, a police truck hit a parked car, sparking
an argument between police officers and the car's owner. Suaray was attempting
to photograph the argument when the officers turned on him and assaulted
him. The officers then attacked Thomas, who tried to defend Suaray. The
officers also confiscated Suaray's camera.
According to Kelvin Lewis, the paper's editor, a crowd of by-standers
intervened and stopped the attack, but both reporters were bruised and
Thomas was injured from being hit on the head with a pair of handcuffs.
Afterwards, a senior police officer from another police convoy arrived
on the scene, followed the reporters back to their office and threatened
them, saying, "if you publish anything I can assure you something will
happen to you," said Lewis. He indicated a crowd of policemen in the street,
who pointed their guns at the newspaper's staff.
According to Lewis, on January 22, the senior officer returned to the
newspaper's offices, after the paper ran a story describing the incident
and the assault on Suaray and Thomas. The officer, who was accompanied
by another policeman carrying a loaded semi-automatic rifle, threatened
Lewis that he would "take care of" the newspaper's staff because they
had run the story.
Lewis told CPJ that he had filed a complaint with the Inspector General
of Police. He also said that the newspaper's staff was afraid of further
JULY 23, 2004
Posted: September 7, 2004
Alex James, Citizen FM
James, station manager of the community radio station Citizen FM, was
attacked by a group of men belonging to a local criminal gang. According
to the journalist and other local sources, the attack came in retaliation
for the station's broadcasts detailing criminal activity in the eastern
neighborhood of the capital, Freetown, where the station is based.
The men called James by name while he was driving home from the station.
When he stopped his car, they dragged him out, stripped him naked, and
stole his belongings, including two mobile phones. James told CPJ that
as his attackers fled the scene, one of them said, "Go tell this on the
Citizen FM broadcasts a daily news show called "Monologue," hosted by
veteran journalist David Tam-Baryoh, which is accompanied by a regular
phone-in program, hosted by James, during which listeners can call the
station and voice their concerns. The programs regularly focus on crime
and drug gangs, according to local journalists.
AUGUST 7, 2004
Posted: September 7, 2004
Alie Bai Kamara, Citizen FM
Kamara, a reporter for the community radio station Citizen FM, was attacked
by a group of men belonging to a local criminal gang. According to Kamara
and other local sources, the attack came in retaliation for a broadcast
aired several days earlier that criticized police for not cracking down
on criminal gangs and drug dealers in the eastern neighborhood of the
capital, Freetown, where the station is located.
Following the broadcast, which featured a segment in which listeners call
to voice their own criticisms of local police and criminals, police launched
a crackdown on crime in the neighborhood. The crackdown sparked resentment
of Citizen FM, Kamara told CPJ.
The attackers beat Kamara with a shovel, injuring his back and face, and
accused him of working against them. The journalist was later treated
in a hospital and received 12 stitches on his face, he told CPJ.
Kamara filed a police report the same day he was attacked, and police
arrested three suspects. However, the suspects' current whereabouts are
unknown, and police have refused to inform journalists of their current
status, according to Kamara and his colleagues at Citizen FM.
Local criminals assaulted Alex James, station manager at Citizen FM, on
July 23, after the station aired a series of programs detailing local
OCTOBER 5, 2004
Posted: October 7, 2004
Paul Kamara, For Di People
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Kamara, editor and publisher of For Di People newspaper, was sentenced
to two years in prison stemming from October 2003 articles that criticized
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
The court found Kamara guilty on two counts of "seditious libel" under
the 1965 Public Order Act. He was taken into custody and transferred to
the Pademba Road Prison in the capital, Freetown. Kamara's lawyer, J.O.D.
Cole, told CPJ he plans to appeal.
The judge also recommended a six-month ban on For Di People. According
to local sources, Sierra Leone's media regulatory body, the Independent
Media Commission, is expected to rule on the recommendation.
Under the act, newspaper vendors, printers, and publishers may also be
held liable in a libel case. Brima Sesay, chief printer of the John Love
Printing Press, which prints the paper, was found guilty of "printing
seditious libel" and sentenced to six months jail or a fine of Le10,000
(about US$4), local sources said. Sesay paid the fine and was not imprisoned.
Printing press owner Lovette Charles and manager Joseph Charles were acquitted.
The verdicts stemmed from articles that detailed a 1967 Commission of
Inquiry into fraud allegations at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board
at a time when Kabbah helped oversee the board. For Di People also
reprinted the commission's report in installments.