The six journalists who were returned to Banjul’s Mile Two prison on 3 July were released again this morning on bail of 400,000 dalassi (10,800 euros). The court did not immediately demand payment of the bail but it asked fellow-journalists to act as guarantors. All six have been told to report to the Banjul high court again at 9 a.m. tomorrow.
“We hope they are being released for good this time,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The repeated imprisonment of these journalists is outrageous and unacceptable. It is as if the Gambian government were deliberately trying to terrorise journalists and press freedom activists. We also fear that the authorities are deliberately trying to ruin them financially be imposing these very high bail amounts.”
The six journalists released today, all members of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), were GPU secretary general Emil Touray, GPU treasurer Pa Modou Fall, The Point publisher Pap Saine, The Point editor Ebrima Sawaneh, Foroyaa editor Sam Sarr and Foroyaa reporter Abubakar Saidykhan.
Initially jailed from 18 to 22 June for issuing a statement criticising President Yahya Jammeh, they had been jailed again for the same reason on 3 July.
03.07.2009 - Six Gambia Press Union journalists sent back to prison
Reporters Without Borders is outraged to learn that six leading members of the Gambia Press Union, including the editors of two newspapers, were sent back to prison today on sedition and defamation charges. The GPU’s vice-president, the mother of a young child, was also rearrested but was freed on bail. Reporters Without Borders calls for them all to be released unconditionally at once.
“We must yet again tell the Gambian government that we appalled by its disgraceful behaviour,” the press freedom organisation said. “This is clearly a ploy by the president to hound the staff of the opposition newspaper Foroyaa and the independent newspaper The Point and force them to close.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The way the authorities play with the lives of these journalists by repeatedly sending them to prison cannot leave the international community unmoved. We appeal to all the organisations of which Gambia is a member, including the African Union, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth, to condemn this outrage.”
The six journalists who were sent back to Banjul’s Mile Two prison today were GPU secretary general Emil Touray, GPU treasurer Pa Modou Fall, The Point publisher Pap Saine, The Point editor Ebrima Sawaneh, Foroyaa editor Sam Sarr and Foroyaa reporter Abubakar Saidykhan.
GPU vice-president Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, the mother of a young child, was also jailed but was released in the afternoon on payment of 200,000 dalasis (5,400 euros) in bail.
The seven journalists have been charged for the past two weeks with “seditious publication” for issuing a statement calling on President Yahya Jammeh to acknowledge his government’s responsibility in the 2004 murder of journalist Deyda Hydara. Their trial was due to be held on 7 July in Kanifing, but was brought forward to today and transferred to the Banjul high court.
The additional charge of criminal defamation was brought against them today. They are now scheduled to appear before Justice Joseph Wowo of the Banjul high court on 8 July.
The GPU issued its statement four days after President Jammeh gave an interview on state-owned GRTS television in which he denied any government involvement in the Hydara killing. The statement, which called the president’s remarks “provocative” and “inopportune”, already resulted in the six journalists being detained from 18 to 22 June.