The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by the July 28 death of independent newspaper editor Harry Yansaneh.
An autopsy attributed Yansaneh's death to kidney failure. Yansaneh, acting editor of the daily For Di People, was assaulted on May 10 by a group of attackers. Prior to his death, Yansaneh alleged that Member of Parliament Fatmata Hassan had ordered the attack, according to local sources and press freedom organizations. Hassan, a member of your Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), was seeking at the time to evict For Di People and five other independent newspapers from the office space they had rented from her family for many years. The other newspapers were The Independent Observer, The Pool, The African Champion, The Pioneer and The Progress.
For Di People's offices were also vandalized. Local journalists say the attack may have been motivated by the newspaper's critical stance toward the SLPP and Your Excellency's government.
Yansaneh had taken over as the paper's top 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 Your Excellency. He has appealed, but his application for bail pending that appeal was rejected on July 25.
The continued imprisonment of Kamara and the circumstances surrounding Yansaneh's assault and subsequent death have cast a deep chill over Sierra Leone's free press.
We call on you to commission an independent inquiry to determine who was responsible for the May 10 attack on Yansaneh; to establish whether the assault caused or contributed to his death; and to ensure that the assailants are brought to justice. We also renew our call for Your Excellency to free Paul Kamara and ensure that journalists can work in Sierra Leone without fear of reprisal.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.