IFJ Urges The Gambia To Respect Press Freedom After Cases Launched against Media Workers, Newspaper

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today warned of increased pressure on media in The Gambia after the launching of two recent court cases against journalists at the request of other companies.

The first case is one in which a newspaper is being sued for libel by the head of a government company. The second is a malpractice case brought against two media workers accused of using one newspaper’s facilities to do the work of another’s.

Foroyaa newspaper is being sued for libel by the managing director of The Gambia Public Transport Corporation (GPTC) after it ran a story in September 2006 reporting mismanagement at the company. In the piece, entitled “Mal-administration at the GPTC”, the author of the article attempted to get a comment from GPTC management but they refused to talk. The first court session was held yesterday and another one is scheduled for 22 March. This is Foroyaa’s first time facing libel charges since it was founded in 1987.

“We are worried about this case and we call on the Gambian justice system to show its independence this time,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Office Director. “There is no libel in this article and the journalist tried to get the GPTC view on the issue. The GPTC should withdraw their case if it really has nothing to hide and publicly clarify this mismanagement issue.”

In another case, Modou Sonko, a worker in the printing department of the pro-governmental newspaper Daily Observer, and Isaac Success, a production assistant of the private newspaper Daily Express, were jailed on 3 March 2007 by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on charges that they misused Daily Observer equipment. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa the workers have been arrested after a member of the Daily Observer’s management asked the NIA to arrest the workers because they had used his newspaper facilities to do Daily Express work without permission.

“We can’t understand how an individual can ask the intelligence service to jail people without due process,” Baglo said. “The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Modou Sonko and Isaac Success and for the Daily Observer to follow normal legal procedures if it wants to bring charges against them.”

The IFJ also renewed its call to the government for the release of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who has been missing since July 2006 and is reportedly being held in a provincial police station in The Gambia.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries