The Gambia: Security agents arbitrarily raid and shut down community radio station
21 Aug 2012
ARTICLE 19 is concerned that the Gambian security services arbitrarily raided and shut down the Gambian community radio station, Taranga FM, on the night of 14-15 August. Taranga FM has been shut down before and this most recent raid comes at a time when the Gambia is seeing increasing violations of the right to freedom of expression.
“It is unacceptable that security officers stormed into a radio station and forced it off air without any valid explanation. This act is another example of the intimidating tactics used in the Gambia to stifle the press and violate the right to freedom of expression. The arbitrary closure of Taranga FM is an undue interference in freedom of expression by the state and will deprive the Gambian public of their right to access information, especially in local languages,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa.
“We urge the Gambian authorities to permit the radio to resume its normal programmes and return its equipment,” she added.
According to local sources, on the night of 14 to 15 August 2012, around midnight, officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrived in a convoy of three vehicles to Taranga FM located in Sinchu Alhagie village, southwest of the country’s capital Banjul, and stopped the broadcast of the radio, stating that they were acting upon directives from the authorities to immediately shut down the station.
The licence of the radio, names and telephone numbers of the board members were collected by the security agents before leaving the station.
The director of the radio station, Ismaila Ceesay told ARTICLE 19 that he is not clear what prompted the raid as he had not received any notification of the problem which would have enabled him to follow up deal with it.
Raiding the station without informing the station owners or managers of the legal basis for the closure violates the rule of law and due process. The International Covenant for Civil and Political rights requires under part one of the three-part test that any restriction to the right to freedom of expression be carried out in accordance to a law, not as a result of an arbitrary decision.
Since its establishment in 2009, Taranga FM has been subjected to tight control and harassment by the authorities through the NIA. Between January and August 2011, the radio station was ordered to stop broadcasting and after it resumed operations, five months later it was again asked to suspend its daily news review broadcast in local languages.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information contact: Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 Representative for West Africa, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +221338690322/ +221773335845 or Bruno Menzan, ARTICLE 19 West Africa Programme Assistant for Gambia, at email@example.com.
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