The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the closure of three independent radio stations in the Gambia.
According to the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Taranga FM, Hill Top FM, and Afri Radio were closed down on Sunday 1st and Monday 2nd December by the National Intelligence Agency NIA without explanation.
Media reports claim the NIA agents ordered the members of staff of the privately owned Taranga FM to stop transmission.
“Four NIA agents and a uniformed policeman came to the radio this afternoon (Sunday) around 2:30 pm (local and GMT) and told us to stop broadcasting,” Taranga FM staff told AFP on condition of anonymity. Local media sources also reported that Hill Top FM was closed down later the same afternoon.
Taranga FM is said to be critical of the Jammeh administration and is a popular radio station in The Gambia for its daily translation into national languages of the news published by the Gambian newspapers. Since its inception, it has been closed several times and has often been reopened conditionally as in 2011, when it was allowed to resume its activities but prohibited from addressing the subjects raised by the private press. Its journalists were also sometimes summoned to the NIA, arrested or tried.
“Pluralism of press is an essential element of democracy, and the closure of independent radios without any explanation is a very negative signal in this prospect.The IFJ is calling on the Gambian authorities to allow the three independent radios to resume their broadcastings without any conditions ,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We condemn these closures and the attack on freedom of information this represents. The rights of all media workers in The Gambia must be fully respected and the stations allowed to broadcast without unlawful interference”.
The move is part of a renewed crackdown on independent media in The Gambia. Prior to December elections, freelance journalist Alagi Manka and journalist Yunus Salieu of the Daily Observer were arrested and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul. The director of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Mr Momodou Sabally was also sacked on 8 November, was detained and has faced a trial. GRTS journalist Bakary Fatty was also arrested.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries