- An attempt to burn down the house of the stringer for the British 'BBC Radio' in the Gambian capital, Banjul, is understood to be a yet another warning to the independent media. Also the privately-owned Gambian newspaper 'The Independent' has been victim of two arson attacks in recent months.
The latest attack came in the early hours of Sunday, 15 August. Intruders broke several windows of BBC radio correspondent Ebrahima Sillah's home, pouring gasoline inside his living room and setting it on fire, causing extensive damage but no injuries.
Like other violent attacks on independent media in The Gambia lately, police authorities have made no serious attempt to investigate the arson attack on Mr Sillah's house. This has led media freedom groups such as Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) to suggest that the attack appears to be a government endorsed "warning to the independent media."
RSF in a statement released today noted that the privately-owned twice-weekly newspaper 'The Independent' was also the victim of two arson attacks in recent months, which the authorities have not investigated. "If this kind of impunity continues, the consequences are likely to be much worse," the media watchdog group said.
On 13 August, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) - the country's independent journalists' association - received an anonymous letter accusing the media of criticising Gambian President Yaya Jammeh and of being "agents of the West."
The authors said they planned "to teach a GPU journalist a lesson very soon," while adding, "[We are] sure you don't want your bones and flesh to be thrown to dogs and vultures."
Many people speculate that the letter was from the "Green Boys", government supporters whose name is a reference to the colour of the flag of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).
In a 13 January letter, the "Green Boys" had threatened to kill 'The Independent' managing editor Alagi Yorro Jallow and destroy his paper. Three months later to the day, the newspaper's printing press was set on fire to and completely destroyed. The "Green Boys" criticised the paper's coverage of the tax evasion trial of APRC parliamentary spokesman Baba Jobe.
- This is how the enemies of press freedom operate in Gambia, RSF said in its statement today, adding that it feared many more such attacks in the future.
Press freedom has been under increased fire during the rule of military coupmaker President Jammeh. While the Gambian leader has tried to legitimise his increasingly despotic hold on power in the impoverished country by manipulated "multi-party" elections, he has closely followed the methods of his Zimbabwean colleague, PResident Mugabe, in his efforts to silence the press and the opposition.
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