Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay narrowly escaped death in Gambia’s notorious Mile II prison. He was tortured and held in solitary confinement in the security wing of the prison for months before escaping to Senegal.
Ceesay, a broadcast journalist was arrested severally before state secret agents pinned him in a conspiracy. Gambia’s justice department indicted Ceesay on seditious charges accusing him of distributing photos of President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him via WhatsApp.
Jammeh was defeated in the polls in December by Adama Barrow and fled to exile in Equatorial Guinea but Ceesay was convicted in absentia and sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Banjul.
The court presided over by Justice E.O Dada on November 8, 2016, convicted and sentenced Ceesay to a one-year imprisonment and a fine of Dalasi 100,000 (about US$ 2,290) on count one and two. On count three to six, the journalist was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and also a fine of Dalasi 100,000 (about US$2,290). Counts one to six were duplicated sedition charges. On count seven, which charges Ceesay with false publication, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
The new government of the Gambia has promised a free press. President Adama Barrow is yet to appoint his Attorney General and Justice Minister but the department has been already put to task.
The Committee to Protect Journalist encouraged the Barrow administration to review the cases of all journalists who fled the country to escape politicized charges under Jammeh’s rule, including Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay. Ceesay and many others have outstanding warrants to have them arrested.
To secure a press free Gambia, Barrow should expunge the conviction of all journalists like Ceesay and inaugurate with him a new era of Gambia’s media, one in which journalists will no longer be prosecuted, surveilled, or jailed for their work.