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RSF concerned about press freedom

The international lobby group Reporters Sans Frontieres on Thursday expressed concern about "a worsening of press freedom in Sierra Leone after the closure of an independent newspaper and refusal to give a broadcasting licence to a privately-owned radio station".

Robert Menard, General Secretary of the RSF (or Reporters Without Borders), wrote in a letter to Sierra Leone's Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Septimus Kaikai, that the actions taken by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) restricted press freedom.

"The problems is, the IMC is not independent at all and makes decisions in the interests of the government," Menard stated.

He urged Kaikai to ensure that broadcasting licences were granted to all privately-owned stations that requested them, and that the closed newspaper, African Champion, was allowed to re-open.

The privately-owned daily was closed down by order of the High Court of Sierra Leone on 31 August. Its managing editor, Mohamed D Koroma, was banned from any "editorial function" in any newspaper in the country.

The IMC had ordered the paper to close for two months back in March, but Koroma challenged the ban.

The African Champion newspaper was criticised for having published an article headed "Kabbah stinks in dubious deal again," in which it pointed to
allegations of corruption involving President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's son.

West Africa Democracy Radio was refused a licence in August on the grounds of "national security" and "public safety".

The station had wanted to broadcast on short-wave to Liberia and Guinea, but the IMC said Sierra Leone had been destabilised in the past by groups based in those countries.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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