Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Gambia: Journalists and Gambia Press Union Executive Members Detained


Seven journalists and press union leaders were arrested this past week for
criticising the Gambian President for his comments on the unsolved 2004
murder of a prominent editor, report the Media Foundation for West Africa
(MFWA), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ).

The Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrested seven journalists
in connection with a press statement issued on 12 June by the Gambian Press
Union (GPU). The statement criticised President Yahya Jammeh for his
assertion that the state was not involved in the murder of Deyda Hydara,
which has yet to be solved, and that press freedom was respected in the

The seven are: managing editor Sam Sarr and reporter Abubacarr Saidykhan,
of the pro-opposition "Foroyaa" newspaper; deputy managing editor Ebrima
Sawaneh and publisher Pap Saine of "The Point" newspaper; and GPU's general
secretary Emil Touray, vice president Sarata Jabbi and treasurer Pa Modou

"We firmly stand by our statements... and are today, more than ever before
determined to remain steadfast, courageous, and, to speak the truth, only
the truth and nothing but the truth," said Ndey Tapha Sosseh, GPU
president. According to Sosseh, the NIA action contravenes Section 207 of
the 1997 Gambian Constitution and various regional and international

"The failure of the Gambian authorities to bring those responsible for the
killing of Deyda Hydara to justice has rightly angered local journalists,"
said CPJ. "Instead of answering journalists' legitimate questions about
this case, the authorities are locking them up. They should be released

Hydara, editor and co-founder of "The Point", who was also the Gambia
correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and RSF, was shot dead on 16
December 2004 in the capital Banjul. At the time of his death Hydara had
become identified with outspokenness and barbed criticism of the

RSF said media harassment had reached unprecedented levels with the
arrests. President Jammeh has for several years been on RSF's list of
"Press Freedom Predators". Gambia is ranked 137th out of 173 countries on
the organisation's worldwide press freedom index.

Related stories on
- Three press union executives and four journalists detained by National
Intelligence Agency:

From article 19:

Seven journalists and members of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) Executive have been held without charge by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) since being called for questioning on 15 June 2009.

The arrests are believed to be in connection with a statement by the GPU on 11 June 2009, criticising comments made by President Yahya Jammeh during a television interview where he made what they describe as inappropriate comments about the murder in December 2004 of the editor of The Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara, and the status of Freedom of Expression in the country.

Those detained are: the, Sarata Jabbi, First Vice President of the GPU, Emil Touray GPU Secretary General, Pa Modou Faal, GPU Treasurer, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh, Editor and Deputy Editor of The Point newspaper, Sam Sarr and Abubacarr Saidykhan, Editor-in-Chief and reporter for the Foroyaa newspaper.

The arrests come only weeks after the 45th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) held in May in the Gambia, where ARTICLE 19 urged the Gambian authorities to comply with their international obligations on freedom of expression and to allow journalists to work freely.

Media workers and those defending free expression in the Gambia operate in a climate of fear. ARTICLE 19 is gravely concerned that despite many recommendations and resolutions of the ACHPR, the Gambian government and its security agents continue to intimidate and harass media workers on a regular basis.

We reaffirm our solidarity and support to the GPU and call on the Gambian authorities to immediately release those detained and to cease the intimidation and harassment of journalists” said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

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