For Immediate Release, October 13, 2001
Prize of $50,000 to Honor Civil Courage Awarded to Paul Kamara of Sierra Leone for Bravery Publishing the Truth in that War-Torn Country
Turin, Italy - Paul Kamara of Freetown, Sierra Leone, received The Civil Courage Prize at a reception this evening at the Palazzo Carignano hosted by the Northcote Parkinson Fund. He is the second recipient of the annual Prize, which is awarded for "steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk."
The Hon. John Train, Founder of the Prize and Chairman of the Fund, presented an original medal struck for the occasion along with $50,000, a portion of which the recipient says he will use to pay for the transport of donated used equipment such as linotype presses, computers and a printer. He needs to replace equipment that was sabotaged at his newspaper in Freetown.
In his presentation, Mr. Train said, "the events of September 11th remind us of the consequences of evil left unchecked. The courage of individuals, like Mr. Kamara, will help shape our future. We honor a citizen whose steadfast courage, over many years, in defense of freedom shines as a beacon to those who would follow the path of liberty."
Mr. Kamara has been the editor of the widely respected For Di People Newspaper since 1983 and Chairman of the National League for Human Rights since 1983. His newspaper has consistently crusaded against corruption and other social ills, championed press freedom, human rights and democratic values in Sierra Leone, despite continual harassment and intimidation. Mr. Kamara has been shot, and repeatedly imprisoned by the country's rulers in the period when they ruthlessly persecuted opposition from any quarter. When For Di People newspaper was banned in 1993, Mr. Kamara continued the fight against corruption, and championed human rights and democracy, through the National League for Human Rights. In May 1995, Mr. Kamara decided to resume publication of For Di People in spite of the ban and repeated threats to his own life.
In an effort to co-opt Mr. Kamara, the junta persuaded him to take appointment as Secretary of State, Land, Housing and the Environment in January 1996, just prior to elections scheduled for the following month. Initially, Mr. Kamara hoped that the junta had genuine pro-democratic intentions, but when the junta began to sabotage the democratic process he left government. He was then ambushed, shot and left for dead on Election Day, February 26. He was saved and flown to London for treatment, returning to Freetown just before the AFRC-RUF rebels overthrew the legitimate government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997.
While thousands of Sierra Leoneans fled abroad, Mr. Kamara, through his paper, was able to build public opinion against the junta and help mobilize civil disobedience. His paper was the first to condemn the AFRC-RUF coup and demand reinstatement of the democratically elected government of President Kabbah. For his defiance, he was beaten brutally by the rebels and his office totally vandalized.
After the Lomé Peace Accord in July 1999, which joined rebels and renegade soldiers in an effort to resume the democratic process, Mr. Kamara and For Di People continued to expose the crimes of the rebels, and mounted a campaign against the blanket amnesty by the Accord given to rebels and renegade soldiers. This led to a brutal attack on Mr. Kamara in his office by current senior rebel RUF commanders.
Mr. Kamara's paper and individual crusade to restore democracy to Sierra Leone continue. His work has been supported over the last decade by organizations ranging from UNESCO, the National Endowment for Democracy (which gave Mr. Kamara an offset printing machine for his paper), and the French Reporters Sans Frontières. The London-based International Press Directory awarded For Di People its Freedom of the Press Award in 1997, the first paper in the entire African continent to be so honored for being "at the forefront of the popular campaign to restore democracy in March 1996."
According to one authority, Mr. Kamara is "one of the few journalists who stuck through thick and thin against incredible odds, reporting in a primitive environment with physical obstacles. He always brought out his paper, even during the period when the government agents shot him in the leg in an assassination attempt after which he was taken to England for medical attention. [He is] incredibly brave." Another observer has said that, Mr. Kamara is "journalistically engaged, [has] strong conviction, has variously been under attack from both the rebels and the government, very outspoken. In a reprisal for his paper's writing in January 1999, some of his reporters were hunted down and killed by the government."
Mr. Kamara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fourah Bay College-University Sierra Leone, and a senior Diploma in Journalism from the Thomson Foundation in London. He is also the President of the Association of Independent Journalists; Chairman, National League for Human Rights; Founder and Chairman of the Premier Football Club called Wellington People FC and served briefly as team manager for the Sierra Leone national football team, the Leone Stars. He also served as Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists.
Mr. Kamara has won several local and international awards for his enterprise, courage and leadership in advancing press freedom, enhancing human rights and fostering excellence in journalism. In 1997, he won the International Press Directory Freedom of the Press award in London, and in 1999 the US-based World Press Review International Editor of the Year Award. He is married to Isatu Sidratu Kamara and has three daughters.
At the ceremony in Turin, Fund Chairman John Train said: "This award will help Paul Kamara to continue his admirable work. Perhaps in a small way it will also send encouragement to some other individual heroes of conscience who are carrying on under dangerous conditions. If everyone lets the devil take the hindmost, the devil soon works his way to the head of the line. Civil courage, even if by only one person, can discourage that."
Justice Richard J. Goldstone of the Constitutional Court of South Africa has written that the Civil Courage Prize "...is an innovative concept and I have no doubt it will serve to illustrate the power for good which people of courage can exercise." Sir Michael Howard, eminent historian and President of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, has also stated of the Prize, "It is a magnificent conception with which I am proud to be associated."
Last year's recipient, Natasa Kandic of Belgrade, traveled to London to receive the Northcote Parkinson Fund's first Civil Courage Prize award for her heroic efforts over many years to document war crimes by all sides in the Yugoslav conflict and to resist bigotry and persecution of minorities.
Prize founder John Train, also a distinguished writer, journalist and investment specialist, said that it was primarily Alexander Solzhenitsyn's heroic life that led him to establish the Civil Courage Prize: "There is no expression in English for the particular kind of heroism that Solzhenitzyn's life exemplified, inflexibly resisting the evil Soviet system through trials, imprisonment, abuse, exile in Siberia and elsewhere and other forms of extreme duress, while suffering from cancer, incidentally." Mr. Train calls this inspiring virtue among individual citizens "civil courage," to distinguish it from military bravery among soldiers on the field of battle.
All queries regarding this Prize may be directed to the Executive Director of the Northcote Parkinson Fund in New York City, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 212-737-1011. Mr. Kamara and Mr. Train will be available for interviews October 12 and 13th in Italy.
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