Gambia: Timeline of Crackdown On Journalists

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, right, with the late President Omar Bongo of Gabon.

Dakar — Below is a timeline outlining the arrests and detention of prominent journalists in Gambia over recent years, as reported by Reporters without Borders and Amnesty International.

2009

June- July

On 12 June seven reporters - The Point's Pap Saine, Pa Modou Faal and Ebrima Sawaneh; the Gambia Press Union's Abubacarr Saidykhan, Bai Emil Touray, and vice-president Sarata Jabbi Dibba, and Sam Sarr of Foroyaa - arrested and charged for seditious publication and criminal defamation, among other counts. The arrests cause NGO Committee to Protect Journalists to accuse the President of "an unprecedented level of intimidation and detention of Gambian journalists by national security forces". The hearing proceeds on 20 July

2008

5 June

ECOWAS Community Court of Justice orders government to release missing journalist Ebrima Manneh and pay his family damages of US$100,000. Government continues to deny knowledge of his whereabouts and does not pay fine.

2007

October

Yaya Dath, Foroyaa journalist, and two Amnesty International officials arrested on suspicion of spying, after visiting an opposition politician who had been held in detention for more than a year. All three released on bail.

September

Mam Sait Ceesay, communications director of Gambian presidency, and Malick Jones, chief producer of state-run Gambia Radio and Television Services, arrested for allegedly having informed Daily Observer of supposed sacking of President's press director, which turned out to be false. Both are acquitted and released in May 2008.

March

US resident Fatou Jaw Manneh, former journalist with pro-government Daily Observer, arrested.

2006

September

President Yahyah Jammeh re-elected.

July

"Chief" Ebrima Manneh, reporter for the Daily Observer, is taken into custody. He has since disappeared.

June

Intelligence services publish confidential report on investigations into murder of journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004.

Former editor of Daily Observer and BBC journalist, Lamin Cham detained.

May

Malik Mboob, Daily Observer reporter, arrested by the National Intelligence Services and detailed for 139 days. He was fired on release.

March-April

A foiled coup attempt on Jammeh leads to 59 arrests, including several journalists. Gambia police close The Independent, after it incorrectly names a former interior minister among 23 people arrested for plotting a coup. The paper printed a front-page retraction the next day.

The Independent's editor and managing editor Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay arrested and held in detention for three weeks before being released; both said they were tortured. Lamin Fatty, Independent reporter, The Independent, arrested and released in June 2007.

March

Doudou Sanneh with Gambia Radio Television Services detained and then fired after his release.

2004

December

Deyda Hydara, co-owner of The Point, and Banjul correspondent for Agence France Presse and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), murdered in his car by a gunman in an unmarked car, according to RSF. It said: "A new threshold has been crossed in violence against journalists in this country [The Gambia]." The authorities deny any responsibility

Controversial government media commission was disbanded. The next day two laws - the Criminal Amendment Act and the Newspaper Amendment Act - adopted, making all press offences punishable by imprisonment and raising the cost of a licence to publish a newspaper.

August

Home of BBC stringer Ebrahima Sillah set alight.

Ongoing

Legal battle continued between government and Gambia Press Union, which had been resisting media commission, which had the power to grant or refuse publishing permits; issue rulings in conflicts involving journalists; and impose sanctions on journalists, ranging from the suspension of press passes to prison sentences.

2003

October

Premises of The Independent set on fire with limited damage.

September

Abdoulie Sey, editor of The Independent, detained by National Intelligence Agency officers; released a week later.

Media commission orders news media and journalists to register with the commission or risk being fined $420.

June

Alhaji Yorro Jallow, managing editor of The Independent, arrested by two NIA agents and interrogated about a report.

Government sets up a media commission to strengthen the independence and professionalism of the news media but retaining far-reaching powers to control and sanction the press.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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