- Alagi Yorro Jallow, managing editor of the private, bi-weekly 'Independent' newspaper, is receiving death threats because of his newspaper's reporting about Baba Jobe, majority leader in The Gambia's National Assembly. International press organisations are "deeply concerned" over his safety.
Mr Jallow received a letter, dated 13 January, in which a previously unknown group called the 'Green Boys' threatened to "eliminate" him if the 'Independent' continued to publish stories about Baba Jobe, majority leader in the National Assembly. "This is a final warning to you," the letter said. "Stop it now or else you will never see a newspaper again ... Stop telling lies and writing about Baba Jobe or you will regret it."
Mr Jobe was arrested on 25 December 2003 and faces charges of tax evasion and other related economic crimes in what has become known as the "Babagate" scandal in The Gambia.
The International Press Institute (IPI) - global network of editors - today expressed its deep concerns over the safety of Mr Jallow. According to IPI's sources, the police said they would investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice, "but have thus far failed to act upon their promise."
The threat against Mr Jallow is not the first case of harassment or intimidation directed against the 'Independent' in what IPI calla "an apparent campaign to prevent the newspaper's critical reporting."
On 17 October 2003, unidentified assailants had attempted to burn down the newspaper's offices in Banjul. In doing so, they damaged Mr Jallow's office and the offices of the newsroom.
During the incident a private security guard was attacked and beaten with an iron bar. The guard, who managed to call his security firm for assistance and prevent further damage to the offices, was hospitalised as the result of head injuries suffered during the attack.
Although the police were called at the time of the incident, they did not arrive on the scene until the following day.
On 19 September 2003, the Independent's editor-in-chief, Abdoulie Sey, was arrested by plainclothes security agents in front of the newspaper's offices. He was held incommunicado at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) until 22 September.
According to Mr Sey, he was interrogated about an article that was considered critical of President Yaya Jammeh and the Banjul government. Media watchdogs have registered an increasing frequency of government attacks on the remnants of a free press in The Gambia.
IPI today protested the attacks on the 'Independent' and its editor. In a letter to President Jammeh, IPI Director Johann Fritz urged the President to "authorise an immediate and thorough investigation into this latest incident."
Mr Fritz further urged President Jammeh "to do everything in your power to ensure that journalists working for The Gambian media in general and the 'Independent' newspaper in particular are able to carry out their profession without fear of intimidation."
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