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Sierra Leone12 March 2003

Journalist set free after four months in prison

Paul Kamara, founder and editor of the privately-owned daily For Di People, was released on 11 March after serving four months of a six-month sentence for libelling a judge. The authorities granted him two months’ remission of sentence.

Kamara announced at a press conference on leaving Freetown’s Pademba Road prison that he would go back to work as soon as possible. He challenged the legality of his arrest and called for the repeal of the laws under which he was convicted, which limit press freedom. He was the only journalist in prison in Sierra Leone.

The Freetown high court originally sentenced Kamara on 12 November 2002 to nine months in prison and a fine of 4.5 million leones (2,100 euros), and banned the newspaper from appearing for six months. Three days later, this sentence was reduced to six months in prison and a fine of 4,500 leones (about 2 euros).

The conviction was a result of the complaint brought on 5 April 2002 by appeal court judge Methland Tholla Thomson over several articles calling him a thief, a criminal and a constitutional swindler, and the publication of his photo with the caption: "This man is dangerous."

Kamara is one of Sierra Leone’s best known journalists. He has received several international awards for his work and he is a human rights activist. He has been jailed several times in recent years.

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