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Sierra Leone19 March 2002

Newspaper and its director suspended for two months

In a letter addressed to President of the Republic, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) protested against the suspension of the daily African Champion Newspaper and its director by the Independent Media Commission, a regulatory body for the profession. Without wishing to comment on the facts RSF asked the head of state to go to the competent authorities to demand that this measure be lifted. "The authorities should not forget that the initial aim of this commission was not to suspend or sanction the independent press. It should not be a substitute for legal measures and used to hinder journalists’ everyday work. In addition, an increasing number of observers are questioning the true independence of this commission", stated Robert Ménard, General Secretary of RSF. "As the presidential elections draw closer, the President has to ensure that there is pluralism of information in Sierra Leone and make commitments to encourage freedom of the press", the General Secretary added.

According to information obtained by RSF, during the week of 11 March 2002, the Independent Media Commission ordered a 2-month suspension of the private daily African Champion Newspaper. The managing editor of the publication, Mohamed D. Koroma, has been prohibited from practicing journalism for the same period. When RSF spoke to him by phone, he stated his intention to continue publishing his newspaper regardless. The African Champion Newspaper was indeed distributed on March 18. In a press release, the commission explained that the newspaper had published an article with the title "Kabbah stinks in dubious deal again", denouncing the corrupt son of the President. The newspaper added that the son was being protected by his father.

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