The International Federation of Journalists today mourns the death Baboucarr Gaye, a veteran journalist and press freedom advocate in The Gambia.
Gaye was engaged in a prolonged legal fight with the government of The Gambia in relation to the illegal closure of his radio station, Citizen FM in 1998. Despite the fact that he was cleared from all wrong doing by the courts, Citizen FM and the Citizen newspaper remain closed to this day.
Gaye initially worked as a broadcaster at the national radio station, Radio Gambia, and also served as the BBC correspondent in Banjul. Later, with some friends, he established the Senegambia Sun newspaper, which was short lived. A determined journalist, Gaye was later able to establish Citizen FM and the Citizen newspaper.
“The death of Baboucarr Gaye is a grate loss to the media fraternity in the Gambia and the West African sub- region as a whole” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa Office. “As a press freedom advocate in The Gambia, Baboucarr had been arrested on numerous occasions by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in relation to his work with the Citizen newspaper and Citizen FM.
Citizen FM, a private radio station owned by Gaye, was first closed down by the Gambian government in February 1998. Gaye was accused of operating a radio station without a license and arrested by the NIA. He was taken to court by the government and upon going to the Court of Appeal, he won his case and Citizen FM was reopened.
In October 2001, on the night of the Presidential elections in The Gambia, armed military personnel stormed Citizen FM radio station and forcefully closed the station down under government orders. Gaye was accused of broadcasting the election results before they were announced by the national radio. The radio station remains closed to this day. His newspaper, the Citizen, was also shut down because its offices were housed within the premises of the radio station.
Many Gambians believed that Citizen FM was closed because the government of the day disliked the news that the station was broadcasting in the local languages. Its press review of the newspapers, which was quickly gaining popularity in The Gambia, was also a cause of concern for the government.
In memory of Baboucarr Gaye and his fight for free expression, the IFJ reiterates its call to the government of The Gambia to allow the media to operate freely and to end all forms of persecution of journalists.
“Gambian journalists are still being forced into exile or to abandon the profession entirely, because of the repressive nature of the government,” Baglo said.
The IFJ extends sincere condolences to Baboucarr Gaye’s family and to the entire media community in The Gambia.