Reporters Without Borders reiterates its deep concern about six journalists who are still in prison after receiving two-year jail sentences from the Banjul high court on 6 August on charges of defamation and sedition. They appealed on 17 August against their conviction. The appeal will be heard in October.
The six journalists were able to receive visits in the past few days. Their relatives say their morale is high and they still hope to be freed soon.
Five of the journalists – Emil Touray, Pa Modou Faal, Ebrima Sawaneh, Sam Sarr and Pap Saine – are being held in Old Jeshwang prison. Saine is very ill. The sixth, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, the only woman, is in Banjul’s Mile Two prison. Her seven-month-old baby was taken from her on 8 August.
They were convicted for issuing a release on behalf of the Gambia Press Union that urged President Yahya Jammeh to recognise his government’s responsibility for journalist Deyda Hydara’s murder in 2004. It was published on 12 June in the opposition newspaper Foroyaa and on 15 June in the independent newspaper The Point. Reporters Without Borders posted it on its website today.
Read the GPU statement :
13.08.09 - Five jailed journalists moved to northern prison, baby taken from sixth
Five of the six journalists who were jailed for two years on 6 August on charges of defaming the government – Emil Touray, Pa Modou Faal, Pap Saine, Ebrima Sawaneh and Sam Sarr – were transferred from the capital’s Mile Two prison to Old Jeshwang prison in the north of the country on 10 August.
The sixth journalist, Sarrata Jabbi-Didda, who has a seven-month-old baby she is breastfeeding, remained in Mile Two but, on 8 August, prison guards took advantage of what they said would be a routine medical examination to take the baby from her. They then promised she would be able to see the baby at least twice a day, but it is now with the Gambian child services at Bakoteh, 20 km outside the capital, and she has not seen it since 8 August.
Reporters Without Borders is also extremely concerned about Pap Saine’s state of health. Saine has a heart condition that needs surgery and already lost consciousness during a court hearing at the end of last month.
Short profiles of the detained journalists:
- Pap Saine, Reuters correspondent and publisher of the independent daily The Point
One of the founders of the Gambia Press Union, Saine has received awards in Gambia and elsewhere in Africa. Aged 59, he has two wives and five children. He was a childhood friend of Deyda Hydara, cofounded The Point with him, and took over as its primary editor after Hydara’s murder in December 2004. He needs to have a pacemaker inserted in his chest but the operation cannot be performed in Gambia and the authorities have prevented his repeated attempts to travel to Senegal for the operation.
- Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, GPU vice-president
Aged 27, she is the mother of two children, including a boy of seven months called Mamadou. After studying at Banjul’s Muslim secondary school, she began working as a freelance journalist in 2002, covering court cases for The Point. She so impressed the newspaper’s editor, Deyda Hydara, that he put her in charge of writing about the contribution of women to Gambian society. She was elected GPU vice-president in March 2008.
- Ebrima Sawaneh, editor of The Point
Aged 37 and the father of two children, he has been working as journalist for the past 10 years.
- Pa Modou Faal, GPU treasurer
Aged 37 and the father of two children aged 2 and 5, he is a reporter with The Point.
- Sam Sarr, editor of the opposition newspaper Foroyaa
After getting a masters in mathematics and physics in Britain in 1976, Sarr decided to return to Gambia to teach. Yahya Jammeh, the current president, was one of his students when he taught at Banjul’s “The Gambia” secondary school.
- Bai Emil Touray, GPU general secretary
A fairly young man who has just married and has no children, he has been a journalist for 10 years, nowadays working for Foroyaa. His family’s only breadwinner, he suffers from asthma and an ulcer, and his health is fragile.
The six journalists were all given two-year jail sentences on 6 August for issuing a press release urging President Jammeh to recognise his government’s responsibility in the 2004 murder of Reporters Without Borders correspondent Deyda Hydara.