By Abdoulie John
Gambian journalist of the privately owned newspaper The Standard may face possible indictment after being arrested and released from police custody. The arrest and detention have been connected to Sanna Camara’s story on trafficking in persons.
“I am not formally charged, but they [the police] already prepared a kind of cautionary statement. They said they will be prosecuting me for false publication,” Mr. Camara told this reporter. “I am supposed to report back to Police Headquarter on Monday,” he said.
In a story published last Wednesday by The Standard newspaper and entitled “Police Admits ‘Problems’ With Human Trafficking”, senior reporter Camara interviewed police spokesperson who ‘admitted’ that the country’s law enforcement body is confronted with “problems and challenges in tackling trafficking into and from The Gambia.”
The article came in the wake of release of the 2014 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report. The damning report described the Gambia as “a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Within The Gambia, women, girls, and, to a lesser extent, boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Women, girls, and boys from West African countries–mainly Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Benin–are recruited for commercial sexual exploitation in The Gambia.”
Apparently, the authorities were not amused by the content of The Standard story, and this may have prompted them to order the arrest of the journalist on Friday evening and subsequent release on Saturday. “He was called for questioning at Bundung Police station,” Gambia Press Union (GPU) Executive Director Gibairu Janneh said when asked about Sanna Camara’ s fate.
On April 16, 2013, the tiny West African country’s National Assembly amended Section 114 of the Criminal Code which imposes a jail term of five years or a fine of D50, 000 (about USD1, 650) on persons convicted of giving false information. The law previously allowed a jail term of not more than six months or a fine of D500 (about USD17) or both.
Branded by human rights activists as a ‘slaughter house for journalists’, Gambia continues to make headlines over persistent attacks on the media. Recent legislation passed by Gambia’s Parliament toughen anti-media laws with heavy penalties.