Paul Kamara, managing editor of the For-Di-People newspaper, was on Friday October 3, 2003 arrested and detained at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Kamara was released after seven hours and asked to report the following morning.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Sierra Leone sources, Kamara was arrested at the instance of Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Eke Halloway, and queried about a front page article published in the October 3, 2003 edition of the paper. The article challenged the constitutional legality of the Speaker of Parliament, Justice Edmond Cowan’s defense of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in Parliament.
Justice Cowan had reacted in Parliament to recent media publications that insinuated that President Kabbah was found guilty in 1968 by a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Beoku Betts. The Beoku Betts Commission was set up to investigate alleged fraud at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) while President Kabbah was serving as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade.
The “For-Di-People” newspaper had, for the last week been serializing verbatim, the Beoku Betts Commission report, much to the chagrin of the Speaker of Parliament and some government officials.
The Speaker, quoting relevant provisions of the constitution, argued that President Kabbah was not a convict because a Commission of Inquiry did not have the powers of a High Court.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) considers the arrest, detention and interrogation of Kamara for disagreeing with the Speaker on the constitutional interpretation of the Beoku Betts Commission’s report as an abuse of power and a manifestation of intolerance of dissent.
The MFWA appeals to the government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to demonstrate a commitment to media freedom and freedom of expression in Sierra Leone by permitting the independent and critical debate of issues of public interest.