New York, January 10, 2012--Police in Gambia are harassing a journalist for reporting farmers' complaints against a local official accused of mismanaging public resources, according to local journalists and news reports.
A plainclothes police officer picked up reporter Momodou S. Jallow of the private Daily News on Friday while he was covering a public meeting of a local rice growers' cooperative in Brikamaba village in central Gambia, Jallow told CPJ. The journalist said he was detained for five hours in Basang police station and accused of "inciting violence" with a January 4 story based on interviews with local farmers who accuse a local official, Chief Mamadou Lamin Baldeh, of mismanaging public assets.
Jallow reported back to the police station on Monday and was told to report back again next Monday, according to local journalists. He has not been charged. The Daily News on Monday quoted Gambian National Police Spokesman Yerro Mballow as saying Jallow would be taken to court and charged with one count of libel, a criminal offense.
"Gambian police must immediately stop harassing Momodou Jallow for giving voice to farmers' grievances," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "Repeatedly summoning a journalist to court and threatening him with charges is intimidation designed to silence criticism."
In Jallow's story in the Daily News, a rice farmer accused Chief Baldeh of misallocating a ticket sponsored by President Yahya Jammeh to travel to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj. The article also cited farmers raising questions about Baldeh's management of the finances of a local cooperative.