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Gambia: Newspaper Staff Members Arrested

(Feb. 5, 2013) On January 18, 2013, three senior administrators at Gambia’s Daily Observer newspaper were arrested by officers of the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The move was part of an investigation into alleged corruption at the newspaper. The three, marketing manager Amie Manka, accountant Yasin Faal, and procurement officer James Campbell, were released on bail two days later; their travel documents have been confiscated. The newspaper is reportedly controlled by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.(Press Release, Media Foundation for West Africa, Gambia: Authorities Arrest Staff of Daily Observer Newspaper (Jan. 25, 2013), ALL AFRICA.COM.)

In an earlier move related to corruption charges at the newspaper, Pa Malick Faye, the former managing director now in self-imposed exile and listed as “wanted” by the NIA, was fired by Jammeh on January 3. The suspicion has been raised, however, that Faye was fired because of a caption in an article that appeared in the paper on January 2. That caption read, “[t]he Execution was hypocritically blown out of proportion.” It was paired with Jammeh’s message for the New Year, in which he spoke in favor of the August 2012 execution of nine inmates from Gambia’s death row. (Id.)

The Media Foundation for West Africa, located in Accra, Ghana, has criticized Gambia’s government for past actions against journalists, stating:

President Yayha [sic] Jammeh continues to brutalize and order actions against staff of the paper each time a publication criticizes him as was the case of Chief Ebrimah Manneh, reporter with the Daily Observer, who was arrested in July 2006 by officials of the NIA. Manneh’s whereabouts remain unknown and Jammeh’s government continues to deny custody of him. (Id.)

Gambia’s press laws, including the Information and Communications Act 2009, have come under criticism for years from human rights groups for, among other problems, a lack of independence of licensing authorities. (Article 19, Gambia: Analysis of Selected Media Laws – Overview, ALLAFRICA (May 2, 2012) [Article 19 is an international freedom of expression advocacy group]; Gambia: Information and Communications Act 2009, World Intellectual Property Organization website (last visited July 2, 2012).) The organization Reporters Without Borders lists Gambia at 152 out of 179 countries on its Press Freedom Index. (Press Freedom Index 2013 (last visited Feb. 4, 2013).)