IFJ Calls on The Gambia to Release Two Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today has called on authorities in The Gambia to immediately release two journalists.

According to The Gambia Press Union (GPU) an IFJ affiliate, journalist Musa Sheriff Editor in chief of privately-owned newspaper The Voice was picked up on January 13 at his office by four plain clothes officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Freelance journalist Sainey M.K. Marenah author of the story is also being detained.

Both have been charged with “giving false information to a public officer” over a story titled “19 Green Youths Defect to UDP” published by the newspaper on its edition of December 9, 2013. In The Gambia “Green youths” are groups of young supporters of the ruling of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC). UDP (United Democratic Party) is the main opposition party.  

The officers, who came to the offices of The Voice in the town of Serekunda (southwest of Banjul the capital) on Monday January 13, 2014 at around 8am, waited for Mr Sheriff till he arrived at around 11am. They demanded two copies of the related story. After a brief discussion, the officers asked for the author of the story freelance journalist Sainey M.K. Marenah but he was not available at that moment. He later reported to the station after he was called by the police. 

By 12pm, officers decided that the editor would go with them at their station where he and Mr Marenah are being detained over night.

Their colleagues at The Voice and The Gambia Press Union visited the police station to secure their bail but there was no offer from the police. The officers said they received a directive from the President Yaya Jammeh.

The APRC denied the story considering that it was false information, and a rejoinder was published by the newspaper for this matter.

“We call on authorities in The Gambia to release these colleagues,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director. “Despite the New Year's Day announcement by the president Jammeh lifting bans on The Standard newspaper and Teranga FM we are still concerned by the threats on press freedom in The Gambia”, he added.

The IFJ believes that journalists Musa Sheriff and Marenah must be at liberty until the court hears their case and rules independently.  The IFJ has always raised concerns on freedom of expression and press freedom in The Gambia. These rights are in principles guaranteed by the Constitution of the country.  

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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries