A man rides a bicycle through the Senegalese-Gambia border town of Keur Ayip on May 9, 2016.  
Senegal and the Gambia have agreed to hold talks on May 15 aimed at ending a three-month border blockade, truckers behind the closure are adamant the frontier will stay shut until their demands are met. Senegalese territory entirely surrounds the Gambia, leaving it dependent on cross-border deliveries of fuel and food, but the tiny state raised entry fees from 4,000 CFA ($7) to 400,000 CFA ($700) per truck without warning in early February, infuriating drivers.
 / AFP / SEYLLOU        (Photo credit should read SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Gambian journalists face serious threat ahead of presidential run-up

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.

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