At least 37 leading media rights watchdog organisations around the world have petitioned the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) over the prolonged detention of Gambian radio journalist, Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, whose health condition has deteriorated. The groups, led by the Media Foundation for West Africa, want the continental commission to guarantee the rights of a helpless young journalist.
The move comes in wake of disturbing news that the Taranga FM Manager was last Monday rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at the main Banjul referral hospital. He was later discharged only to be returned to Mile II Central Prisons.
Alagie Ceesay, who spent more than three 300 days in remand, has exhausted all avenues of bail. He was first arrested on July 2 last year. Ceesay was released two weeks later but was re-arrested and has since been in state custody. The young radio journalist was held incommunicado until August 4th when he appeared in court and charged with a single count of sedition. Prosecutors accused him of distributing photos of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.
The petition was addressed to Pansy Tlakula who is the ACHPR Chairperson and African Union’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. The organisations, among others, voiced their concern about Mr. Ceesay’s safety. Also copied was David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The groups are concerned about the consequences of Alagie’s continued detention in a country where detainees disappear or die, with state providing no explanation. After all efforts to get Ceesay out of jail had failed, media right watchdogs decide to petition the Banjul-based African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The campaigners call on the Commission Chairperson to “apply pressure on President Yahya Jammeh to ensure the release of journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay in consideration of his long period of detention and failing health, and to end the persistent crackdown on free expression.”
In the said petition, a copy of which was obtained by this reporter, detained journalist’s brother, Amadou Ceesay, explains the trauma his family had been going through.
“Following his arrest to date, the family has been going through difficult and trying times,” Amadou said. “He was the family’s main breadwinner… Life at the media house he manages is more than difficult at the moment. Some staff left for fear of their life and those that are still there have not been paid since his arrest.”