Thursday, November 14, 2002The Government of Sierra Leone must rescind a court decision sending newspaper editor Paul Kamara to jail for six months for defaming a local judge, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) said today. "The incarceration of Paul Kamara sends the wrong message to the people of Sierra Leone and to the international community at a time when the country is struggling to recover from a brutal civil war," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said. "We understand the government also intends to close Kamara's newspaper, 'For Di People,' for six months," Ruimy added. "This is an unacceptable attack on free expression in Sierra Leone." Kamara was jailed November 12 after his conviction on 18 counts of criminal libel under Sierra Leone's Public Order Act. Although sentenced to six months, he faces an additional three months in prison unless he pays a $1,350 (US) fine. Kamara's conviction follows a series of articles he wrote criticizing the management of Sierra Leone's soccer association, run by Judge Tolla Thompson. Kamara also owns a local soccer team. Without passing judgment on what the journalist wrote, CJFE believes defamation suits should be heard in civil court only. There can be no question of imprisonment for writing in a newspaper. Ruimy said CJFE will pay special attention to this case because of the organization's close ties with the journalistic community in Sierra Leone. CJFE run a media-rebuilding project in the country, which includes the operation of a printing press, and training and other support for five local newspapers. CJFE is an association of more than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Joel Ruimy at (416) 515-9622 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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