The Gambia Press Union is calling on the Gambia Armed Forces to investigate the case of Mafugi Ceesay of The Voice Newspaper. The journalist reported that he was maltreated by men in military uniform during the President’s meeting in Sukuta.
We are deeply concerned and worried by the mistreatment meted out to Mr Ceesay.
Ceesay said he was on Wednesday June 3, assigned by his editors to cover the meeting of President Yahya Jammeh in Sukuta, Kombo North, as part of the Gambian leader’s much-significant nationwide tour.
The reporter said he was taking notes as the president was making his address when an armed man in military uniform put him under arrest for ‘illegally covering’ the event without getting press accreditation from the State.
He alleged that the man in Military fatigue held him by the neck and pulled him out of the crowd and took him to his superiors, who subjected him to interrogations.
During the one-hour plus that Mr Ceesay spent in their custody, his bag was searched, and recorder, press card and notepad had been seized.
According to him, one of the men dressed in GAF Uniform said, “I can put you to sleep and go and play football.” He noted that he was further threatened by the men that later joined the President’s convoy.
However, he was later released without any further incident and his gadgets were given back to him when his captors confirmed from their informants that The Voice is not ‘an underground newspaper’.
The GPU has made efforts to engage the Gambia Armed Forces since this case involves men believed to be GAF personnel. Our representatives, accompanied by Journalist Ceesay, have on Monday and Tuesday, visited the Defence Headquarters to lodge a formal complaint to the Army Spokesperson, but he was said to be busy.
The mistreatment and rough-handling of Journalist Ceesay is quite regrettable. The GPU considers the incident as an attack on press freedom. It infringes upon the reporter’s right to seek, receive and impart information.
The constitution of the Gambia provides an entrenched guarantee to press freedom and further obliges the independent press to hold the government accountable to the public. The independent press executes this mandate by informing citizens about issues of legitimate public interest.
The meeting in Sukuta concerns every Gambian, therefore denying journalists to cover events accessed by the public amounts to gross discrimination, which is at variance with the Gambian Constitution.
This unfortunate incident happened at a time when the GPU is making efforts to engage the government in a progressive dialogue with a view to smoothening relations and bringing about an end to the many years of mistrust and misunderstanding.
The GPU remains committed to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and of the press.
Issued by Gambia Press Union