- Press freedom watchdogs wonder why a court in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, would impose tough bail conditions on Philip Neville, a jailed journalist charged with liberl, malicious propaganda and publishing false news.
The editor of the privately-owned 'Standard Times' daily newspaper was charged on Monday having spent a week in detention.
The court set a bail of 200 million leones (about 50,000 euros) before Mr Neville. The court went further to tighen the bail, asking three people to provide security for the editor. Two of these people must own homes in the Western area worth at least 50,000 euros.
Another tough condition is that the bail amount and the property titles of the guarantors will have to be deposited with the high court clerk’s office before Neville can be freed.
The Standard Times editor was arrested by plain-clothes police on 28 June after publishing an article accusing President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of keeping quiet over gifts that Sierra Leone had been offered by Libya.
He was initially held at a police station in the district of Aberdeen before being moved to a crowded cell at Freetown's police headquarters. After falling ill, he was transferred to Police Kingdom Hospital before appearing in court for the first time his arrest.
Aged 44, Neville has been a journalist for several years. Since he founded Standard Times in 1994, he has endured government reprisals for his paper's independence and hard-hitting reporting. He has been arrested and detained numerous times between 1994 and 1996.
After the overthrow of the elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997, the AFRC military regime targeted the journalists of Standard Times. Neville and his staff went underground, but continued to publish the newspaper. He was attacked, and eventually fled into exile in the United States.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders reported that another Sierra Leonean, Mamajah “DJ Base” Jalloh, a presenter on the UN radio station in Sierra Leone, has been “invited” for questioning at the headquarters of the investigative police after organising a programme about Col. Gaddafi’s alleged gifts.
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