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Sierra Leone4 July 2007

Newspaper editor released on bail pending trial

Philip Neville, the editor of the privately-owned Standard Times daily newspaper, was released from Pademba Road prison late yesterday after paying bail. No date has yet been set for his trial.

3.07.2007 - Court sets high bail and other tough conditions for editor’s release

A Freetown court yesterday charged Philip Neville, the editor of the privately-owned Standard Times daily newspaper, with libel, malicious propaganda and publishing false news, and set very tough conditions for his provisional release, Reporters Without Borders has learned.

The court set bail of 200 million leones (about 50,000 euros) for Neville. It also stipulated that three people would have to stand security for Neville, two of whom would have to own homes in the Western area worth at least 50,000 euros. The bail amount and the property titles of the guarantors will have to be deposited with the high court clerk’s office before Neville can be freed.

Neville was arrested by plain-clothes police on 28 June after publishing an article accusing President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of keeping quiet about gifts that Sierra Leone had been offered by Libya. Initially held at a police station in the district of Aberdeen, Neville was moved to a crowded cell at police headquarters. After falling ill, he was transferred to Police Kingdom Hospital before appearing in court yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mamajah “DJ Base” Jalloh, a presenter on the UN radio station in Sierra Leone, has been “invited” for questioning at the headquarters of the investigative police after organising a programme about Col. Gaddafi’s alleged gifts.

29.07.2007 - Editor arrested for saying president kept quiet about Gaddafi’s gifts

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Philip Neville, the editor of the privately-owned Standard Times daily, who was arrested by plain-clothes police yesterday after publishing an article accusing President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of keeping quiet about gifts that Sierra Leone had been offered by Libya.

“Many news media have been talking about Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s gifts, not just the Standard Times,” the press freedom organisation said. “One has the impression that Neville was arrested in order to settle scores and to issue a warning in the run-up to the 11 August general elections.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The government has never understood that jailing journalists is not the way to resolve disputes with the privately-owned press. Now it once again finds itself having to take responsibility for the fate of a political prisoner who is being prosecuted under an archaic law.”

Neville was arrested yesterday afternoon on the orders of the attorney general and justice minister after the president’s office issued a statement earlier in the day announcing that it had asked them to take the “necessary action” in response to an article in the previous day’s issue of the Standard Times headlined “Bombshell - Colonel Gaddafi Exposes Government.”

Published the day after a visit to Freetown by the Libyan leader, the article said that during a meeting at the national stadium, Gaddafi had embarrassed President Kabbah by listing all the gifts which Libya had offered Sierra Leone and which the Kabbah government had never mentioned.

In its statement, the president’s office described the article as “irresponsible propaganda” that contained “not an iota of truth” and denied that Col. Gaddafi had made the comments attributed to him. The statement also insisted that the president’s office had often referred to Libya’s gifts and accused the Standard Times of “woefully failing to observe the basic rules of journalism.”

Now held at a police detention centre in Aberdeen, a neighbourhood in the west of Freetown, Neville is to be prosecuted under the 1965 public order act for libel and sedition.

Several other newspapers also posed questions about the gifts reported by Col. Gaddafi, who was warmly received by President Kabbah and his supporters although the visit rankled with many Sierra Leoneans because of Gaddafi’s controversial role in the civil war and his support for the “arm-amputating” rebels of Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front.

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