The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the release by presidential pardon of six journalists who were sentenced on 6 August to two years in jail and fined US$ 20,000 each by the High Court in Banjul for seditious publications criminal defamation.
“The IFJ and journalists worldwide celebrate today the release of the six Gambian journalists and the dropping of the case against them,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. ”We applaud their courage, resilience and determination in risking their freedom to uphold the principles of a free press in the Gambia. We also congratulate their union, the Gambia Press Union, for standing by them and organising a formidable global campaign for their release. The GPU makes us proud and shows the way to other African journalists' unions battling to free their journalists from prison or fighting against oppressive media laws.”
According to the GPU, the six journalists, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Emil Touray and Pa Modou Faal, GPU Vice President, Secretary General and Treasurer respectively together with Pap Saine and Ebou Sawaneh, publisher and editor of The Point Newspaper and Sam Sarr, editor of Foroyaa newspaper were released yesterday 3 September at 21:00 p.m. GMT.
The GPU says the Gambian Minister of Interior, Ousman Sonko, explained the presidential pardon as a “humanitarian” gesture in the spirit of Ramadan” on the part of President Yahya Jammeh.
The six journalists were arrested in June following their public criticism of President Jammeh’s comments on Deyda Hydara, a prominent Gambian journalist who was killed in suspicious circumstances in 2004. The seventh journalists, Abubcarr Saidykhan, a reporter of the Foroyaa newspaper was also arrested but later released.
The IFJ condemned their arrest and the subsequent conduct of their trial which included closed hearing among many abuses of due process. It also supported the GPU in its impressive campaign to secure the journalists’ release.
“The IFJ has argued from the beginning that the trial was flawed and we are relieved that President Jammeh finally saw sense and pardoned the journalists,” added Boumelha. “ We hope this will be the beginning of a new era where journalists will be treated with respect and which will lead to the scrapping of the legislation regarding sedition and defamation in particular, and the introduction of freedom of information and access to information legislation in accord with international norms.”
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide