Nearly half a dozen journalists arrested and only two released in the run-up to The Gambia’s next week presidential votes. It is a decisive election and one that could have a historic outcome.
At the center of documenting it all are journalists, most of whom have gone into self-censorship fearing retribution from the government. Gambian journalists face death threats, arrests, and detentions and media houses can easily lose their publication and broadcasting licenses for running stories critical of or contrary to government’s official statements.
Two of the journalists arrested: Alhagie Manka, a documentary filmmaker and Yusuf Salieu of the pro-government Daily Observer were released, but others like state broadcaster network director Momodou Sabally and reporter Bakary Fatty remain in custody.
“We call on the Government of The Gambia to uphold press freedom and ensure the safety of journalists while covering the election campaign as well as the entire election process,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.
Journalists in The Gambia face up to 15-years in prison and many have been charged with “publishing false news” and violating a colonial “sedition” law. As most of them turn to digital journalism and broadcast, especially on social media, The Gambia’s parliament amended the information and communications act to introduce a fine of 3 million dalasis ($77,000) for anyone using the internet to spread false news or make derogatory statements, incite dissatisfaction, or instigate violence against the government or public officials.