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DATE=10/22/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SIERRA LEONE / MEDIA (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-255376 BYLINE=JOE DE CAPUA DATELINE= CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A report by the International League for Human Rights says the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone has not improved the situation of the country's media. V-O-A's Joe De Capua says the human rights group believes freedom of the press is in jeopardy. TEXT: The report, entitled "Killer Bills and Decrees," says during the eight-and-a-half-year civil war, journalists were censored by the democratically elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and brutalized by rebels and military regimes. However, the International League for Human Rights says under the country's new government of national unity journalists now face a different challenge. Parliament is considering a measure called the Independent Media Bill. Kakuna Kerina is the league's African Program Director. /// KERINA ACT /// Despite its title, it's far from being an independent media bill. What it does is offer mechanisms and actually creates an institution, the Independent Media Commission, whose sole job is to restrict the media. /// END ACT /// The report says the commission would be empowered to suspend or revoke newspaper licenses and to fine journalists who do not prove the truth in their stories to the panel's satisfaction. It says journalists could be imprisoned if they are not able to pay a fine. What's more, the commission's decisions could not be appealed in court. Ms. Kerina says the lack of a free press had a profound effect on the civil war and the peace process. /// KERINA ACT /// One of the tragedies of the war and one of the factors that prolonged this war was that, for the most part, the large majority of the population was cut off from one, the capital, and two, any important information about what was going on in that country. And then also, when it was time to make informed decisions, there wasn't the kind of information that they needed to be able to do so. /// END ACT /// The League has made a number of recommendations it says are needed to achieve long-term peace in Sierra Leone. It says future aid to the country must be linked to a free press. And it says much of that aid should be distributed directly to local non- governmental organizations to avoid corrupt government officials. It also says local groups are better in touch with the needs of the people. The human rights group is also calling for international support for a U-N peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, vocational training for civilians wounded in the war, and better psychiatric care for former child soldiers. Finally, the International League for Human Rights says the United States and other Western nations should respond to crises in Africa with the same speed and resources as they have in Kosovo and East Timor. (Signed) NEB/SFM/KL 22-Oct-1999 14:18 PM EDT (22-Oct-1999 1818 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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