- It has been four months since a journalist of The Gambia's pro-government 'Daily Observer' went missing. Chief Ebrima Manneh, a crime reporter was believed to be arrested by plain cloth officers of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on 11 July at the premises of 'Daily Observer'.
He is believed to be languishing in the NIA, although intelligence officers denied arresting him, alone holding him incommunicado. After the release of Malick Mboob on 9 October, Mr Manneh is now the only Gambian journalist still held in custody.
No reasons were given for his continued arrest or disappearance but leaks suggest it happened after he had furnished a foreign correspondent with "damaging" information prior to the African Union summit held in Banjul earlier this year.
Since the government announced a foiled coup attempt in March 2006, a number of journalists have been arrested, tortured or forced into exile. The office of the Banjul-based bi-weekly 'The Independent' remains illegally shut while one of its reporters, Lamin Fatty, faces trial for "publishing false information" after spending 63 days in illegal detention by the NIA.
Omar Bah, news editor of the 'Daily Observer', escaped into exile in May, a few days before he was declared wanted by the Gambian police for his alleged contribution to a US-based Gambian online newspaper, 'Freedom Newspaper', that is critical of the government.
At the 'Daily Observer', government officials consistently plant stories in the newspaper and remove those deemed critical of the government. "Journalists who object to these acts of censorship are branded as opposition elements and threatened with dismissals or imprisonment," a former 'Daily Observer' staff member currently in exile told afrol News.
Media rights groups register their bewilderment of the NIA's continued denial of holding Mr Manneh. "We see his continuing arbitrary detention as a gross violation of his rights and an outright contravention of guarantees enshrined in The Gambia's constitution," cried Chief Executive Officer of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Professor Kwame Kari Kari.
The MFWA leader today called on the Jammeh government to "immediately and unconditionally" release the journalist.
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