The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) today called for the immediate and unconditional release of Dodou Sanneh, a journalist working with the state owned Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), who has been held by authorities for almost a week for allegedly biased coverage of opposition campaigns in the national elections.
Dodou, also know as Magadou, has been detained since Friday, 7 September, at the National Intelligence Service (NIA) headquarters.
“The Independent Electoral Commission assured us that all the political parties running in the presidential election will have access to the state-owned radio and television,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa Office. “We can’t understand how a journalist formally assigned to cover the election can be arrested for doing his job. We condemn the arbitrary arrest and detention of Dodou Sanneh and we ask for his immediate and unconditional release”.
Sanneh was assigned by the television station of the government-owned GRTS to cover a nationwide campaign of a bloc of opposition parties contesting the 22 September presidential election. According to IFJ sources in The Gambia, Sanneh was replaced by another journalist before the end of the campaign.
“On 7 September the NIA came to the office and left a message asking Dodou to report to their office and he did so”, said a GRTS source who requested anonymity.
Since then, Sanneh has been held at NIA headquarters for allegedly “biased coverage of the opposition campaign.” No official reason is given for his detention but sources say it is linked to a report Dodou released on the defection of 200 ruling party members for the opposition parties’ alliance.
Some days before, on August 29, the NIA arrested and detained for five hours Amie Sillah, a gender activist and journalist working with the private Foraya newspaper. Amie is also the wife of Sam Sarr, a Gambian opposition leader. The only justification for her detention that the journalist got from NIA agents was that they were “abiding by instructions from above.”
“We urge the Independent Electoral Commission to make sure that this intimidation of the media stops,” said Gabriel Baglo. “The Gambian President Yaya Jammeh doesn’t have to continue to see journalists as a danger for his regime but rather as a mirror to improve democracy in the country.”
Numerous Gambian journalists have been arrested and reported missing in the past few months. Malick Mboob, a journalist and a communications officer for the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, has been held by Gambian authorities without charges since 26 May. Ebrima Chief Manneh, a journalist with the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper, has been missing since July 7. Certain sources have indicated that Manneh is being held by the NIA for unknown reasons. Sulayman Makalo, former editor of the private Daily Express newspaper who had published a piece critical of the government, has been missing since July. Lamin Fatty, a journalist with The Independent, spent two months in prison without being charged and is now being prosecuted for diffusion of false news. Omar Bah from Daily Observer and Musa Saidykhan from The Independent fled the country in May after they found out they were being sought by the Gambian police.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries