Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the two-year jail sentences that the Banjul high court passed today on six journalists for alleged sedition and defamation of the government. The six journalists, all leading members of the Gambia Press Union, were immediately taken away to Banjul’s Mile Two prison.
“We will soon run out of words to express our outrage at President Yahya Jammeh’s government and its behaviour towards journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Is it a crime to express an opinion and ask government officials to explain their actions? Appealing for what is regarded as transparency in other countries is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Gambia.”
The press freedom organisation added: “These disgraceful sentences seem like a provocation at time when the US secretary of state is touring Africa to promote good governance. We urge Hillary Clinton to modify her itinerary and make a stopover in Banjul.”
Banjul high court judge Emmanuel Fangbele found the six journalists guilty on six counts including defamation and “seditious publication”. He passed two-year jail sentences on four of the charges and fines of 250,000 dalasis (10,000 US dollars) on the other two counts.
The six journalists were charged in mid-June after issuing a joint statement appealing to President Jammeh to recognise his government’s responsibility in the 2004 murder of leading Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara. They were placed in pre-trial detention in Mile Two prison twice but each time they were then freed on bail.
The six imprisoned journalists are:
- Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Gambia Press Union vice-president
- Emil Touray, GPU secretary-general
- Pa Modou Fall, GPU treasurer
- Pap Saine, publisher of the independent newspaper The Point
- Ebrima Sawaneh, The Point editor
- Sam Sarr, editor of the opposition newspaper Foroyaa
Picture: Hillary Clinton (AP)