The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on authorities in The Gambia to stop their repression of the independent press after the government detained two journalists and two others disappeared.
"Today it is dangerous to be an independent journalist in The Gambia,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “The crackdown on press freedom is intensifying and we are seriously worried about it. The independent press is likely to disappear if this situation continues."
In the first few weeks of July, the IFJ has seen new threats to press freedom and the safety of journalists in The Gambia. At the new private newspaper Daily Express, Editor Sam Obi and Abdul Gafar, a sports journalist, were recently arrested and detained for four days. The country’s intelligence service, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), released the two men, who are both Nigerian nationals, on July 17.
Abdoul Gafar told the IFJ that he and his colleague were questioned about a former colleague, Sulayman Makalo, who had published a piece critical of the government.
Makalo was the editor of the Daily Express for its first and only printing to date. In that issue of the paper, Makalo printed a declaration by a coalition of civil society groups that protested the government ban of a meeting on freedom of expression that was to take place prior to the African Union summit in the country.
Makalo has since disappeared and the IFJ currently has no information on his whereabouts.
The family and colleagues of journalist Ebrima Chief Manneh, who works for the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper, have had no information on his whereabouts since July 7. Certain sources have indicated that Manneh is being held by the NIA for unknown reasons.
These recent disappearances follow arrests of other journalists in the past few months. Malick Mboob, journalist and communication officer for the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, has been held by Gambian authorities without charges since 26 May. 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.
"We express our solidarity with the Gambian journalists facing these difficult working conditions and we urge President Yayah Jammeh to release the arbitrarily detained journalists and to authorize the reopening of The Independent newspaper," Baglo said. "For the success of the presidential elections next September, President Jammeh must work to create a more conducive social environment, which must include press freedom, safety protections for journalists and the return of journalists in exile".
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries