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Sierra Leone3 August 2005

News media shaken by Harry Yansaneh’s death

(JPEG) An autopsy was carried out on 29 July on the body of Harry Yansaneh, the acting editor of the independent daily For Di People, who died the previous day after more than two months in hospital. He was hospitalised following an assault on 10 May by thugs allegedly acting on the orders of ruling party parliamentarian Fatmata Hassan Komeh.

The forensic specialist who performed the autopsy, Dr. Orwizz Koroma, was reported by local sources as attributing his death to a dysfunction of both kidneys.

Reporters Without Borders wrote yesterday to the inspector general of police, Brima Acha Kamara, requesting that there should at last be a "rapid and thorough" investigation into the events leading to Yansaneh’s hospitalisation. The organisation also asked for a copy of the autopsy report. Yansaneh was buried on 31 July in the presence of many of his colleagues.

Komeh has meanwhile reportedly been questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department although the date of her interrogation is not known. The Attorney general was given prior notification in accordance with the law. Komeh was allowed to go free after giving a statement.

Yesterday also saw the suspension of superintendent Kalia Sesay of Freetown’s central police station, where the police failed to take any action in response to the complaint Yansaneh filed about the attack. Nonetheless, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists announced at the police’s weekly news conference that the independent press will boycott the activities of the president, parliament and police until the Yansaneh case goes before a court.

29.07.2005 - Call for autopsy after death of editor of For Di People

Reporters Without Borders expressed sorrow at the death of For Di People interim editor Harry Yansaneh on 28 July 2005, more than two months after he was savagely beaten up by henchmen of Fatmata Hassan Komeh, a deputy in the ruling party.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the authorities to hold a rigorous investigation including a post mortem to determine the exact causes of the journalist’s death.

The editor and founder of the newspaper, Paul Kamara has been in prison since October 2004 after being sentenced to four years for "seditious defamation" based on a complaint from President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Fatmata Hassan Komeh, a member of parliament for the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), on 10 May 2005 ordered her henchmen, some of them her family members, to beat up Yansaneh, for reporting negative comments about the government.

Her two sons, accompanied by three other men, burst into the editorial office and beat the journalist, drove staff out of their offices, blocked access to the paper and vandalised equipment. Yansaneh was left with his body and face swollen from his beating. A complaint was made to the police but they have so far taken no action. Some sources said that several of the assailants had since left the country.

"We are saddened and distressed by the death of Harry Yansaneh, after nearly three months in hospital, "said Reporters Without Borders, offering the organisation’s profound solidarity to his family and colleagues. "It is inconceivable that the police should find any further reasons not to investigate the case and find the assailants and the instigator of the attack.

"An autopsy must be held to determine the cause of Harry Yansaneh’s death in particular whether he died of the injuries inflicted on him by Fatmata Hassan Komeh’s henchmen."

"The authorities in Freetown must realise that this tragic episode means yet another blow to a profession already hit by the unfair imprisonment of Paul Kamara, for whom Yansaneh was editing For Di People in his absence," it added.

On the same day as the attack on Yansaneh, Komeh forced six independent newspapers - The Independent Observer, For Di People, The African Champion, The Progress, The Pool and The Pioneer - to leave the offices that they had been renting for more than ten years.

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