The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today raised serious
concerns about the fairness of the trial at the Gambian High Court in Banjul
of the seven journalists charged with six counts of seditious publication and
criminal defamation after the judge, Justice Wowo, overruled all the
applications made by the defence team.
"Judge Wowo is showing little
impartiality. By conducting the hearing in camera, he is denying people all
over the world who have been following this trial the ability to hear the
arguments. This is a gross miscarriage of justice and the trial must be opened
to observers," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
The seven defendants - Gambia Press Union
General Secretary Emil Touray, its Vice President Sarata Jabbi-Dibba and
Treasurer Pa Modou Faal together with Pap Saine, publisher, Ebrima Sawaneh, editor of The
Point newspaper; Sam Sarr, editor and Abubcarr Saidykhan , reporter at
the Foroyaa newspaper - were arrested and charged on three accounts of publishing seditious
publications and two accounts of criminal defamations.
According to the Gambia Press
Union (GPU), an IFJ affiliate, the journalists appeared before the court on
Tuesday 22 July, for a hearing ordered by the judge to be held in camera for
the third day running. The GPU says that their lawyers made an application for
the presiding judge, Justice Wowo, to withdraw from the case, arguing that
their clients have no confidence about getting a fair trial from him. The
application followed the judge's refusal to rule on the lawyers' earlier
submission to dismiss charges against the journalists on the grounds that they
were unfounded. However, Justice Wowo denied the application and ruled that the
trial should continue.
The defence team also applied for
the proceedings to be held in public rather than in camera since the only
witness listed in the indictment as security personnel had already
testified. This was also denied by Justice Wowo.
The IFJ, in collaboration with trade unions and human rights organisations
is building support for the journalists in a series of protest activities in
Europe and Africa, as part of the global campaign to free the seven journalists. On the third day of the trial protest marches have organised and press
conferences held in protest against the trial of the journalists in various
countries, including a press Conference in Dakar, Senegal.
In Glasgow (Scotland) local journalists and Gambian exiles held an all-day vigil in the city
centre to coincide with the court hearing.
On Monday 20 July, the National Union of Journalist in the UK and Ireland
(NUJ), the British Trade Union
Congress (TUC) and Amnesty International held a protest at the Gambian High Commission in London
attended by dozens of demonstrators who called for free speech and a free press
The protest, held to coincide with Freedom Day in the Gambia
highlighted the ongoing trial of the seven
journalists and the 'disappearance' of another, Ebrima B. Manneh.
"It is not too late for the Gambian authorities to drop these trumped-up charges
and release the seven journalists. Our protest will continue all over the world
until these journalists are freed," added Boumelha. "How can the Gambian government
be taken seriously when it celebrates Freedom when journalists are harassed and
jailed? Freedom of speech and freedom of association are fundamental human
For more information contact the IFJ
at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists
in 123 countries worldwide