Grave repression of the media in The Gambia: Four journalists imprisoned, two escape, online newspaper hacked

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is worried about the alarming attacks on the media in The Gambia.

Three journalists Pa Modou Faal of the national television GRTS, Musa Sheriff of Gambia News & Report Magazine and Malick Mboob, Communication Officer of Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital were arrested last Friday by the Gambia security forces. Lamin Cham, the BBC stringer in the Gambia was equally arrested today by security forces.

The journalists were arrested along with a dozen of people whose names are reproduced on a list of alleged "informants” of the online newspaper very critical to the government, Freedom Newspaper, based in the United States. A press release from the Gambia Police Force, announced last week they were in possession of the full list of persons who continually supplied Freedom Newspaper with information which is used to castigate and vilify the government of Alhaji Yahya Jammeh.

According to reports journalists arrested in April this year were tortured and threatened to keep quiet after their release.

“Because of these threats and the arrests of their colleagues two journalists have fled the country” sources told IFJ. Their whereabouts are not yet known.

In the night from the 22 to May 23, 2006, the website of the Freedom Newspaper was attacked by a hacker who replaced all the initial data by a declaration credited to the director of the online newspaper Pa Nderry Mbai. According to this message Mr Mbai has pledged an allegiance to join the party of President Jammeh and announced the closing of his newspaper. The email box of the director of Freedom Newspaper was also hacked and the names and contacts of the subscribers of his website were published in this false allegiance presenting them like his “informants”.

"The repression of the media and journalists in The Gambia has reached inadmissible proportions and we protest vigorously against these very alarming acts" declared Gabriel Baglo, the Director of Africa Office of the IFJ.

"We demand the immediate and unconditional release of these four journalists and Lamin Fatty who is held and tortured since 10 April. While the next summit of the African Union will be held in The Gambia next July, we call on the President of this organization, Denis Sassou Guesso and the President of the AU Commission Alpha Oumar Konaré, to obtain the release of these arbitrarily detained journalists and citizens”.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries