Channel 4 journalists must be released

The arrest fits into a pattern of arrests of journalists and human rights defenders in Liberia on politically-motivated charges.

Mark Lattimer, Amnesty International UK Communications Director, said:

'The arrest of a foreign television crew is yet another attack on the freedom of the news media in Liberia. The journalists appear to be prisoners of conscience, arrested to deter journalists and human rights defenders from investigating politically sensitive issues. They should be released immediately.'

Amnesty International has requested a copy of the indictment from the authorities but has not received it yet. If there is credible evidence of any criminal offence then the authorities should ensure that the journalists are promptly and fairly tried, with full rights of defence and according to international standards for fair trial.

Background Sorious Samura (Sierra Leonean), Gugulakhe Radebe (South African), and David Barrie and Timothy John Lambon (both British) were arrested in Monrovia on 18 August. The Liberian Minister of Justice accused them of planning to 'provide false and malicious information to foreign powers and the international community at large'.

The four were accused of using 'pre-packaged information' to implicate 'the Liberian government in the issue of diamonds smuggling and gun-running'. Channel 4 has affirmed that the four journalists were 'only engaged in legitimate journalistic activities during their stay in Liberia' and has stressed that the men had received permission from the Liberian Ministry of Information to film in the country.

On 21 August they were charged with espionage and criminal design before the Criminal Court A in Monrovia. These offences are punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. Their lawyers were given no notice of the hearing and were not present in court. The men are currently held at the Central Prison in Monrovia, where conditions are poor.

Sorious Samura was the winner of the Television Documentary category at this year's Amnesty International UK Media Awards for his film 'Out of Africa', which brought powerfully the tragedy of Sierra Leone to British television screens. The film was produced by Insight News Television, in association with Channel 4 Television.

Link to further information on the Amnesty International UK Media Awards /p>

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