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Gambia


The government of President Yahya Jammeh sought to tighten its grip on the already weak independent press with detentions, criminal prosecutions, and the introduction of more repressive legislation. The National Intelligence Agency arbitrarily detained at least three reporters in connection with their work for prolonged periods of time. One remained in detention in late year. Authorities announced their intention to re-introduce statutory regulation of the press with a government-run Media Commission and criminalized online dissidence by passing a law imposing a harsh prison sentence on any individual, living in the country or abroad, who uses the Internet to criticize public officials. No new information surfaced on the whereabouts of journalist Ebrima “Chief” Manneh, who disappeared after being arrested by agency officers seven years ago. The government has made contradicting claims about Manneh’s whereabouts and health over the years, and has not complied with various international rulings ordering his release.

Lagos, Nigeria, January 14, 2014--Gambian authorities should drop the charges against two journalists who have been held since Monday on accusations of giving false information, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Fatou Camara, host of the 'Fatou Show,' has been held by authorities since September 17. (Facebook)

Abuja, Nigeria, October 3, 2013--Gambian authorities should immediately release Fatou Camara, a journalist who has been held incommunicado since September 17, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The government has not disclosed Camara's whereabouts or any charges against her, according to news reports.

Plainclothes officers of the Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrested Pa Sulay Jadama on June 20, 2013, at the premises of the Banjul Magistrates' Court and detained him incommunicado for six days, according to news reports.

The African Union's special rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has launched an auspicious initiative in East Africa to counter criminal defamation and sedition laws. Since independence, authorities and business interests in the East and Horn region have used criminal laws on sedition, libel, and insult--often relics of former, colonial administrations--to silence their critics in the press. "Criminal defamation laws are nearly always used to punish legitimate criticism of powerful people, rather than protect the right to a reputation," Tlakula said in a statement.

Abuja, Nigeria, July 10, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an amendment to a media law adopted by the Gambian parliament that imposes lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines on individuals who use the Internet in any capacity to criticize government officials.

Dear Chairperson Zuma: We ask that you mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, by calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned in Africa and appealing for justice in the murders of journalists killed in the line of duty.

Abdoulie John is being detained without charge. (Abdoulie John)

Abuja, Nigeria, January 9, 2013--Gambian authorities should immediately release Abdoulie John, a journalist who has been detained without charge in Banjul since Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. John has been harassed by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency since early December, news reports said.

John, editor of the online news website Jollof News and a contributor to The Associated Press, was summoned for questioning at the headquarters of the NIA at around 2 p.m. on Monday, Lamin Jahateh, a representative of the Gambia Press Union, who was with John at the time, told CPJ. John was questioned for about three hours, he said. Emil Touray, president of the union, told CPJ that the agents took John to his home where they conducted a search, before returning him to custody.

Deyda Hydara and his wife Maria circa 1989 (Hydara family)

In the eight years since unidentified assailants shot and killed Deyda Hydara of the Gambia, no one has been held to account. The late 2004 murder of Hydara, an immensely respected editor, columnist, and press freedom advocate known for his criticism of President Yahya Jammeh's repressive media policies, became a rallying point for Gambian journalists and the human rights community--a symbol of the violent means by which activists and journalists are silenced and of the impunity that envelops acts of intimidation, ranging from arson to torture and murder. 

Abubacarr Saidykhan (The Standard)

Lagos, Nigeria, November 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists today said it holds authorities in the Gambia responsible for the safety of a journalist who has received death threats following critical coverage of the government.

Abubacarr Saidykhan, a freelancer who contributes to several news websites, told CPJ that four unknown people on Tuesday threatened him at his Ebo Town residence in Kanifing Municipality, some seven miles (11 kilometers) from the capital Banjul. Saidykhan said he was near his compound gate with his brother when the men drove up in an unmarked vehicle with tinted windows and threatened to kill him next time they see him. One of the men called him "a very stubborn journalist" before they drove off.

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Killed in Gambia

1 journalist killed since 1992

1 journalist murdered

1 murdered with impunity

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Africa

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Sue Valentine

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Mohamed Keita

East Africa Consultant:
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Peter Nkanga

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