6 June 2007

Gambia: 'Independent' Reporter Convicted

Lamin Fatty, a journalist with the then bi-weekly Independent Newspaper, who was standing trial for publishing false information contrary to section 181(A), of the criminal code, was yesterday convicted and sentenced to one year imprisonment with an option of fine amounting to D50,000.

Appearing before the Kanifing Magistrate Court, Magistrate Buba Jawo,the presiding magistrate, said having considered the evidence and the addresses by the prosecution and the defence, the court is of the belief that Lamin Fatty is author of the lead story published in the Independent Newspaper March 24-25 2006. He said the evidence of the prosecution was corroborated by exhibit A, which showed the photo and name of the complainant Samba Bah.

Magistrate Jawo added that the prosecution has to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has not discharged any evidential burden, nor called any witness to testify on his behalf which would prove his innocence. Magistrate Jawo added that the guilt of the accused has been proven during cross-examination by the prosecution. He noted that the mere fact that the accused was the one who prepared the story and sent it to the editor for publication shows that he is responsible for the publication.

In his plea of mitigation Lamin S Camara defence counsel said the criminal amendment act has provided for an option of a fine, he referred the court to section to 29 (3) of the criminal code, which he said gave the court the right to impose an option of a fine, instead of imprisonment. He urged the court to take cognisance of the fact that the accused person is a first offender and the bread winner of his family. Soon after he was sentenced

Mr Fatty was whisked away to the State Central Prisons at Mile Two to begin his sentence. A few hours later, he was rescued by the Gambia Press Union who paid the D50,000 fine levied on him thus rescuing him from serving the 12 months imprisonment.

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