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Attacks on the Press in 2005 - Snapshots: Sierra Leone

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2006
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2005 - Snapshots: Sierra Leone, February 2006, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Olu Gordon, editor of the satirical newspaper The Peep, was detained for three days and threatened with criminal prosecution in February over an article criticizing President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Gordon was released without charge.

In May, managing editor Sydney Pratt and reporter Dennis Jones of the private weekly The Trumpet were jailed for three days and charged with "seditious libel" over an article on high-level corruption. Both journalists were acquitted in June.

In July, Harry Yansaneh, acting editor of the private newspaper For Di People, died following a May attack he had blamed on a ruling party MP, Fatmata Hassan. Under domestic and international pressure, the government ordered an inquest. In August, the inquest found that Yansaneh's death was accelerated by the attack, and it ordered the arrest of six people, including Hassan, for suspected manslaughter.

Paul Kamara, editor and publisher of For Di People, was freed from prison in November after spending more than a year behind bars. An appellate court in the capital, Freetown, overturned his conviction on seditious libel charges, ruling that Kamara's actions did not constitute sedition. Kamara had been charged under the draconian 1965 Public Order Act after publishing articles critical of Kabbah. Local journalists have long struggled to have the Public Order Act repealed.

Killed in 2005 in Sierra Leone

Harry Yansaneh, For Di People, July 28, Freetown

A judicial inquest found that a May attack on Yansaneh, acting editor of the daily For Di People, contributed to his death from kidney failure more than two months later. Yansaneh had accused Member of Parliament Fatmata Hassan of ordering the May 10 attack, which she denied.

The extent of Yansaneh's injuries was not clear at the time of the attack, and he was not hospitalized. The inquest found that Yansaneh's death was "accelerated by the beating" and called it a case of involuntary manslaughter.

A magistrate ordered the arrest of Hassan, three of her children, and two other men for suspected manslaughter. Hassan, an MP for the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party, Olu Campbell, and Reginald Bull were detained on August 26. All three were released on bail on August 30. Police said they planned to seek the extradition of Hassan's two sons and a daughter from the United Kingdom.

Prior to the attack, Hassan had sought to evict For Di People and five other independent newspapers from the offices they had rented from her late husband for many years. For Di People's offices were also vandalized.

Yansaneh had taken over as senior editor following the imprisonment of For Di People's editor and publisher, Paul Kamara, in October 2004. Kamara was convicted of "seditious libel" and sentenced to two years in jail for articles that criticized President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

The government ordered the inquest following strong local and international pressure.

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