IFJ Condemns lack of Fair Trial for Journalists in Gambia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today raised serious

concerns about the fairness of the trial at the Gambian High Court in Banjul

of the seven journalists charged with six counts of seditious publication and

criminal defamation after the judge, Justice Wowo, overruled all the

applications made by the defence team.

 "Judge Wowo is showing little

impartiality. By conducting the hearing in camera, he is denying people all

over the world who have been following this trial the ability to hear the

arguments. This is a gross miscarriage of justice and the trial must be opened

to observers," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

The seven defendants - Gambia Press Union

General Secretary Emil Touray, its Vice President Sarata Jabbi-Dibba and

Treasurer Pa Modou Faal together with Pap Saine, publisher, Ebrima Sawaneh, editor of The

Point newspaper; Sam Sarr, editor and Abubcarr Saidykhan , reporter at

the Foroyaa newspaper - were arrested and charged on three accounts of publishing seditious

publications and two accounts of criminal defamations.

According to the Gambia Press

Union (GPU), an IFJ affiliate, the journalists appeared before the court on

Tuesday 22 July, for a hearing ordered by the judge to be held in camera for

the third day running. The GPU says that their lawyers made an application for

the presiding judge, Justice Wowo, to withdraw from the case, arguing that

their clients have no confidence about getting a fair trial from him. The

application followed the judge's refusal to rule on the lawyers' earlier

submission to dismiss charges against the journalists on the grounds that they

were unfounded. However, Justice Wowo denied the application and ruled that the

trial should continue.

The defence team also applied for

the proceedings to be held in public rather than in camera since the only

witness listed in the indictment as security personnel had already

testified. This was also denied by Justice Wowo.

The IFJ, in collaboration with trade unions and human rights organisations

is building support for the journalists in a series of protest activities in

Europe and Africa, as part of the global campaign to free the seven journalists. On the third day of the trial protest marches have organised and press

conferences held in protest against the trial of the journalists in various

countries, including a press Conference in Dakar, Senegal.

In Glasgow (Scotland) local journalists and Gambian exiles held an all-day vigil in the city

centre to coincide with the court hearing.

On Monday 20 July, the National Union of Journalist in the UK and Ireland

(NUJ), the British Trade Union

Congress (TUC) and Amnesty International held a protest at the Gambian High Commission in London

attended by dozens of demonstrators who called for free speech and a free press

in Gambia.

The protest, held to coincide with Freedom Day in the Gambia

highlighted the ongoing trial of the seven

journalists and the 'disappearance' of another, Ebrima B. Manneh.

"It is not too late for the Gambian authorities to drop these trumped-up charges

and release the seven journalists. Our protest will continue all over the world

until these journalists are freed," added Boumelha. "How can the Gambian government

be taken seriously when it celebrates Freedom when journalists are harassed and

jailed? Freedom of speech and freedom of association are fundamental human

rights."

For more information contact the IFJ

at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 123 countries worldwide