By Abdoulie John
The Gambia Press Union has used the 57th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) as a platform to draw the attention of country representatives and activists to the ongoing attacks on journalists.
“The Gambia Press Union (GPU) is deeply concerned by the continuing restrictions and violations with impunity the right to freedom of expression, especially press freedom in The Gambia,” the GPU Secretary General Saikou Jammeh on Wednesday told the ACHPR session underway in Banjul, The Gambia.
As the plight of Gambian journalists continues to be spotlighted by rights groups, Mr. Jammeh added that previous cases of heinous atrocities on media, such as the murder of editor and publisher Deyda Hydara, the disappearance of journalist Chief Manneh, arson attacks on Independent newspaper and Radio One FM remain unresolved.
“Media practitioners continue to face abduction, arbitrary arrests and detention, undue prosecution, harassment and thereby loss of
businesses,” Mr. Jammnationd, raising alarm over the case of detained radio journalist Abdoulie Ceesay. “One of the most recent cases involve Mr Abdoulie Ceesay, a radio manager, whose radio station had been arbitrarily shut down three times in under four years.”
Abdoulie’s case has attracted global media attention. The Taranga FM Manager has been charged with sedition and spreading false news. “Prior to the charges, he was taken away by plain clothes state security agents and detained incommunicado for 29 days, between July 2 and August 4, during which he was allegedly tortured. The state accused him of downloading on his mobile telephone a caricature showing the president at gunpoint, and sent it to his girlfriend.”
Many observers believe the case should be struck out for failure to provide witnesses. A prominent media rights watchdog is shares this belief. “In [The] Gambia, media practitioners continue to work in an atmosphere of constant fear and self- censorship. Since January 2015, Taranga FM the only community media that broadcast news to communities was arbitrary forced to stop its news broadcasting in the aftermath of the attempted coup. On July 2nd, its Manager, Abdoulie Ceesay was abducted for 11 days, forced to open his emails and severely tortured:he was brieftly released and detained since, he is now facing sedition charges. Two of his friends were forced to testify against him, but during the process they refused to continue and have since run away from the country for fear for their lives,” Article 19 said in a statement distributed at the ACHPR forum.
Activists who continue to name and shame The Gambia for its gross violations of human rightsto have been beating drum for the relocation of the continental human rights commission to a country with clean credentials.