A court in The Gambia’s capital has sentenced broadcast journalist Alhagie Ceesay, giving him a four-year custodial prison time and a fine of GMD200,000 (US$5,000). Tuesday’s sentencing happened in absentia after he escaped whiles receiving medical treatment at a hospital in Banjul.
Ceesay was the managing director of the country’s only independent broadcast station with a local news program critical of the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh and had spent more than 200 days in prison before his daring escape to Dakar, Senegal.
The journalist was facing seditious charges after state prosecutors accused of false publication and sending a picture of President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.
Defense attorneys for Ceesay said although he was suffering from a kidney condition, their client was tortured by Gambian authorities.
Justice Simeon Abi has ordered for his arrest but now in safety, Ceesay is not within the reach of Gambian authorities.
The Gambia is one of Africa’s most repressive states. Journalists have faced persecution and Freedom House listed the West African nation as not press free.
Authorities this week arrested two journalists including the director of the state’s broadcast network, who are currently being detained at the National Intelligence Agency.
The media in the country has hibernated into self-censorship with the country’s parliament passing laws that severely hamper press freedom, especially on the Internet, and have a strong chilling effect on journalists’ efforts to scrutinize the Jammeh administration.