- The Committee to Protect Journalist has called on the Gambian government to halt an unprecedented level of intimidation and detention of journalists by national security forces.
According to a statement issued by the organisation marking the third anniversary of the disappearance of journalist “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, a former reporter for the Daily Observer, it said the government has consistently denied holding Manneh or having knowledge of his whereabouts despite eyewitness accounts of his arrest at the newspaper’s premises.
Last April, the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Marie Saine Firdaus, told National Assembly members that Mr Manneh was not in government custody. The former communications secretary and current ambassador to the United States, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, also told CPJ the same in 2007.
CPJ said the government has ignored calls for Mr Manneh’s release.
Last year the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered the Gambian government to release him and pay his family damages of US$100,000.
“But the legal order has been ignored and no government personnel attended the court proceedings. We are also aware that attorneys for Mr Manneh have filed a petition on his behalf with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and that a decision from this group is expected later this summer,” it said.
On Monday, the court charged seven independent journalists in Banjul for publishing a press release issued by the Gambian Press Union.
“The journalists and senior press union members are being penalised for a reaction to your televised comments regarding the unsolved 2004 murder of former editor Deyda Hydara,” it read.
CPJ said the latest string of arrests and harassment of journalists tarnishes the country’s image, saying this could be reversed if your government adheres to its pledges as a signatory to Article 9 of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to uphold press freedom and unconditionally drop all charges against these seven journalists.
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