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The Gambia: Arrest of seven journalists for fighting impunity and expressing press freedom concerns
The arrest of seven journalists from the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the newspapers The Point and Foroyaa on 15 June in Banjul highlights the threat to freedom of expression in The Gambia. Those arrested include Mr Emil Touray, GPU general secretary; Ms Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, GPU vice president; Mr Pa Modou Faal, GPU treasurer; Mr Pap Saine and Mr Ebrima Sawaneh, respectively The Point managing editor and news editor; Mr Sam Sarr and Mr Abubacarr Saidykhan, respectively Foroyaa editor and reporter.
On 15 June 2009, Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Pa Modou Faal and Pap Saine were invited to appear at the offices of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul for questioning in relation to a statement published by the GPU on The Point and Foroyaa on 12 June.
Once in the NIA offices, the four journalists were arrested.
The GPU statement that prompted their arrest criticised Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in relation to comments he made on the murder of the prominent Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara, editor of The Point, killed in 2004 by unknown assailants.
The murder went unpunished and it is believed that the police did not carry out effective investigations. The GPU statement also denounced numerous instances of harassment and intimidation of journalists by the Gambian authorities, and deplored the state of media freedom in the country.
Also on 15 June, at around 5.30 pm, Sam Sarr was arrested on his home by NIA officers in plain clothes, driving a vehicle with registration number BJL7176F. Abubacarr Saidykhan witnessed the event and was in turn arrested while alerting colleagues and taking pictures to document Sam Sarr's arrest. Ebrima Sawaneh was also apprehended by NIA officials on the same day.
Human rights lawyer and GPU counsel Lamin Camara was alerted about the arrests and attempted to visit the seven journalists at NIA headquarters, but was prevented access, as did their family members. The seven journalists are still detained incommunicado and no charges have been brought against them.
Front Line views the arrest of the seven journalists as illegal, as it is solely the result of the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to criticise the government. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of the seven journalists while they are being held incommunicado.