The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the release of two journalists detained in The Gambia who remain in detention despite being granted bail while they await trial on charges that they gave information to a foreign journalist and jeopardized national security.
Malick Jones, senior producer at the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) and Mam Sait Ceesay, Press Officer at the State House and former editor of the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper were each granted 200,000 Dalasi (about 9,000 US Dollars) bail on Wednesday by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court. Moments later they were sent back to jail by the Gambian security forces. Their trial is scheduled to start in two weeks.
“We condemn the illegal detention and the senseless charges against Malick Jones and Mam Sait Ceesay,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the Gambian security forces to release these journalists immediately and unconditionally and urge the court to ensure its decision is respected.”
According to local sources the police alleged that the two journalists could not fulfil the condition of the bail stating that their surety must be in possession of a landed property of equal value of the bail.
Jones and Ceesay were arrested on September 9 and since then they have been held incommunicado by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). They were alleged to have passed on “false information” to the Daily Observer for publication. The pro-government newspaper published in its September 7 edition an article that said Ebrima J.T. Kujabi, the President’s Director of Press and Public Relations, had been replaced. Kujabi is said to be on leave in the United States of America. The Daily Observer later published a correction.
After their arrest the accusations against them were changed and they are now being charged for passing information to a foreign journalist who has not been named.
The IFJ also called for the end of the “senseless trial” for sedition of the US-based Gambian journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh which has been pending since April.
These arrests come amidst a recent wave of press freedom abuses in The Gambia.
In June, Modou Lamin Jaiteh, the local correspondent of Pan African News Agency (PANA), received threatening calls and went into hiding after he was accused of providing information to a media watchdog, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). In the same month Lamin Dibba was dismissed from his job as news editor of the Daily Observer newspaper in relation to his stories on the president’s purported claims of curing HIV/AIDS patients.
Chief Ibrahima Manneh, a journalist working at the Observer, was arrested by the NIA in July 2006 and his conditions and whereabouts are unknown.
For more information contact the IFJ at + 221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide