3 January 2017

Gambia: Two More Radio Stations Shut Down By National Forces

Photo: ONU / Tobin Jones.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has been accused of stifling the press during his presidency.

Two private radio stations in Gambia, Hilltop Radio and Afri Radio, have been forced off the air without explanation. This comes after Taranga FM was shut down over the weekend.

Hilltop Radio and Afri Radio, two private radio stations in Gambia, were ordered off the air by national security agents on Monday.

"Three people who identified themselves as staff of the National Intelligence Agency [NIA] came to the radio station on Sunday around 4 p.m. and asked me to stop transmission," Hilltop Radio chief Basiru Darboe told French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

A source from Afri Radio told AFP the station was ordered to stop broadcasting by NIA agents as well.

The shutdowns come after popular radio station Taranga FM was forced to stop broadcasting on Sunday, also by the NIA. Taranga FM, known for translating newspapers into the local languages of wolof and mandinka, has been closed four times in recent years.

"It is a slap in the face of the country's democratic process," said Gambia Press Union President Emil Touray. "People will not have access to information in this critical period of our history."

Holding on to power

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has been accused of stifling the press during his presidency. Press rights group Reporters Without Borders ranked Gambia 145 out of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, with the country having created "a climate of terror around anything remotely to do with journalism."

After gaining control following a coup in 1994, Jammeh has also been accused of human rights violations in the western African nation, including imprisonment, torture and the murder of opponents.

Jammeh was defeated in a December 1 election by opposition candidate Adama Barrow. After initially accepting the results, Jammeh rejected the outcome one week later and filed a challenge to the Supreme Court, which will be reviewed on January 10.

Barrow insists he will become president and is preparing to be inaugurated on January 19. ECOWAS, which includes neighboring Senegal, has said it would stage a military response if Jammeh did not step down by inauguration day.

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