IFJ Demands Release of Journalist Held Secretly For 7 Months in The Gambia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who has been missing since July 2006 and is reportedly being held in a provincial police station in The Gambia.

Manneh, a reporter with the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper has been missing since 7 July and is said to be held by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The agency has repeatedly denied that it is holding the journalist but reports from local media and other sources confirmed that Manneh was held incommunicado in different locations by the NIA.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Chief Ebrima Manneh,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “It’s horrendous that in a state where there is a judicial system a journalist can be held incommunicado for seven months without any charge.”

According to local sources and newspapers, the journalist was moved from the NIA headquarter to the Mile Two Central Prison in the capital city Banjul to police stations in Kartong (South of Banjul), Sibanor (West), Kuntaur (Center) and then to Fatoto (East).

Some sources have indicated that Manneh’s detention is related to a feature authored by a foreign correspondent on the African Union (AU) summit held in Banjul. The news agency Afrol quoted an anonymous source at the Daily Observer saying that "Chief's efforts to reproduce the said feature was aborted, as Observer authorities cancelled the printed pages and went ahead to inform NIA that he is a saboteur to the ruling party." Manneh was arrested the following day according to the same source.

The IFJ renewed its call from 15 December 2006 for independent investigations into the killing of the journalist Deyda Hydara, who was murdered in The Gambia two years ago.

Lamin Fatty, a journalist with the now-shut-down newspaper The Independent, has been on trial at a Magistrate Court since July 2006. Fatty was arrested on 10 April 2006 and was secretly detained for more than two months. Fatty is accused of “publishing false information.”

“We call for the end of the ridiculous trial of Lamin Fatty. There is nothing to charge him with; this harassment should stop and the journalist should be acquitted and compensated for all this emotional torture,” IFJ’s Baglo said.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries