Gambia: Free speech & journalist security still under threat
22 Jul 2011
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On the annual day of national celebration to mark the 17th anniversary of President Yahya Jammeh’s arrival in power, ARTICLE 19 reiterates its concerns over the repression of free speech and the prevailing climate of fear, which continues to hinder the work of journalists and human rights organisations operating in the Gambia.
“Gambia is planning to hold presidential elections in November 2011, but the current insecurity and repressive environment does not augur well for free and fair elections. The government must take immediate steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all human rights defenders, and the right of the media to operate freely and without fear, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right” says Dr. Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
Over the past decade, ARTICLE 19 has consistently monitored and denounced the lack of public space for Gambians - especially journalists - to freely express their views and opinions, and the harassment of political opponents and government critics.
“With the 17th anniversary of Jammeh’s Presidency comes the pressing need for the government to safeguard freedom of speech and not continue to repress it by intimidating journalists, human right organisations and civil society.” says Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 West Africa Representative.
At this time, ARTICLE 19 remains deeply concerned by the government’s failure to conduct effective, independent, prompt and transparent investigation into the assassination of journalist Deyda Hydara on 16 December 2004 and the disappearance of Ebrima Manneh since 7 July 2006.
ARTICLE 19 is further concerned by the government’s use of draconian and undemocratic laws to silence critical voices, including sedition and treason charges, which are constantly invoked to punish and intimidate government critics, including journalists.
The most recent case involves the treason and sedition charges that were brought against the former president of the Gambia Press Union, N’dey Tapha Sosseh for “conspiracy to usurp the executive powers of the state,” on 19 July 2011. These charges are reportedly linked to the ongoing trial of former Minister of Information and Communication, Dr. Amadou Scattered Janneh, and others, who have been arrested and charged with treason for having distributed t-shirts bearing the slogan “Coalition for Change – The Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”
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