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Sierra Leone14 November 2002

Journalist gets nine months for libel and newspaper is closed

Reporters Without Borders today protested against the nine-month prison sentence imposed by the Freetown High Court on 12 November on Paul Kamara, editor of For Di People newspaper. The daily was also closed for six months.

"We call on the competent authorities to dismiss the charges against this journalist, order his immediate release, and authorise the reopening of For Di People," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. The organisation noted that on 18 January 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Abid Hussain, called on all governments "to ensure that press crimes are no longer subject to prison sentences except for crimes such as racist or discriminatory comments or appeals for violence." He added that the imposition of a prison sentence for the peaceful expression of opinion "constitutes a serious violation of human rights."

Paul Kamara was convicted on 18 counts of libel and defamation and also fined 4.5 million leones (Euro 2,100). The charges against him date from 5 April when appeal court judge Methland Tholla Thomson sued him and For Di people and summoned the journalist to appear in court in connection with several articles in the paper that referred to the judge as "a thief", "a criminal", and "a constitutional fraudster". The newspaper also ran a photo of the judge with the caption : "This man is dangerous".

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