Sierra Leone ALERT: Newspaper editor fined $30,000

The editor and proprietor of the For-Di-People newspaper, Paul Kamara, was on Thursday, October 9, 2003, ordered to pay sums of money totalling the equivalent of $30,000, in damages and costs for a libel suit brought against him.

Presiding high court judge, Justice Ademusu, awarded damages in the sum of Le 60 million to be paid within 24 hours to Sierra Leone Football Association president and appeal court judge, Justice Emeric Tolla Thompson. Kamara was also ordered to pay another Le1,000,000 for costs.

Last year, on April 25, Kamara was charged with a two-count criminal libel suit for “malicious” publications “intended to smear the good name and the reputation” of Justice Thompson. He was placed under a Le10 million bail. Paul Kamara had accused Tolla Thompson of constitutional default for accepting a position for which he was receiving emoluments; which, according to Kamara, was contrary to the constitution.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is concerned about the highhanded and evidently punitive intent of the claims and ruling against the editor of the For-Di-People newspaper. Whilst acknowledging the prerogative of the court, MFWA appeals to litigants and the judiciary in Sierra Leone to resolve complaints about defamation by exercising the options of rejoinders, retractions and apologies.

Any action that could have the effect of limiting the space for informed public debate, encouraging prior censorship, or undermining freedom of expression generally, is also a potential threat to democracy and public accountability.

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