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VideoIt's the story the world has never seen... until now.

Risking his life to film the systematic murder of his fellow countrymen during the civil war, Sorious Samura describes in Cry Freetown, (On CNN Perspectives; Sunday, February 20th) what he calls "a nation in dire need, a nation that was being murdered, a country that was dying, that was being left to die by the western world, by the so called developed world".

"Kill every living thing", demanded the rebel forces as they entered Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on 6th January 1999. As the world's media fled, local freelance journalist Sorious Samura captured on film the awful truth of what much of the world was ignoring.

It's the story of greed...  

"In this madness my job was to record the history happening in my country, when random roadside justice was the order of the day", says Sorious Samura. "Personally I felt that this was the only way people would be able to see what was happening in Sierra Leone. When they see the truth, the real pictures, the brutality. It was a very dangerous thing to do at the time."

Captured and threatened by the rebels, Samura, escaped and during the next few days, while battle raged between rebel and Nigerian 'peacekeeping' forces in his country's civil war, Samura took his handheld camera and captured on video some of the atrocities committed by both sides as almost every-day acts of war.


Now the award-winning cameraman returns to Sierra Leone in Cry Freetown to relive the story of the country's civil war that he risked his life to document. Cry Freetown includes much of the graphic and disturbing footage that Samura shot last year - and raises important questions about how much of the reality of war should be shown on television.

The former British colony of Sierra Leone suffered a vicious civil war for a decade which has claimed the lives of an estimated 50,000 people, left some 10,000 without hands or arms and made more than one million of the population homeless.

and a bloody civil war...  

"There was a silent majority suffering for things that they have no idea about. People living in this country don't care about the politics, they don't even know about the diamonds", says Samura. "Ninety percent of the country has never seen a diamond and they were having their arms and limbs chopped off for nothing that was of their own making".

While most of the atrocities were committed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), whose calling card was to hack off the hands of its victims, the Ecomog peacekeeping force - composed mostly of Nigerians - also had a brutal reputation.

Sorious Samura revisits the site of the house set alight by rebels with local people still inside. He explains how Nigerian so-called peacekeepers, assisting government forces, trussed up, beat and almost killed a boy with learning disabilities because he was in a building they suspected of housing a sniper.

The material that he shot won him both of last year's most prestigious awards for the work of freelance camerapeople in news and current affairs, the Rory Peck Award and the Mohammed Amin Award. No-one has won both awards before.

The reason so much of Samura's footage is so powerful is also what makes it untranslatable on normal news bulletins. But does this self-censorship of the television industry - by both regulators and broadcasters themselves - enable groups like the RUF to be even more brutal because they know that broadcasters will not show it. It is this point that lies at the heart of this powerful documentary.

For more in-depth information on the conflict in Sierra Leone, click here.

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