Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday's arbitrary arrests of Musa Sheriff, the owner and editor of the Banjul-based tri-weekly newspaper The Voice, and Sainey Marenah, one of his reporters, on a charge of "publishing false information."
They are being held in connection with a report in their paper last month that 19 members of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction defected to the opposition United Democratic Party.
"We call on the Gambian authorities to release these two journalists at once and to stop persecuting media personnel," Reporters Without Borders said. "These latest arrests are yet further evidence of the government's authoritarian attitude and its attempts to silence any criticism.
"President Yahya Jammeh's New Year's resolutions about the media did not last long. We urge the government to respect its obligations to guarantee freedom of expression, as stipulated in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Gambia ratified in 1979."
After being arrested at his Banjul office, Sheriff was taken to a police station at Sanyag, 30 km outside of the city. Mareneh was arrested when he went to visit Sheriff at the police station. The charge against them carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of 3 million dalasi (64,000 euros).
Gambia is ranked 152nd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.