News

July 9, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Another journalist disappears in Yahya Jammeh’s country


Reporters Without Borders calls on the Gambian government to locate Radio Teranga FM manager Alagie Ceesay, who was released on 13 July, 11 days after his abduction on 2 July, but was kidnapped again four days later. A member of his family said he was bundled into a car on 17 July and was driven away to an unknown location. After his second abduction, the family knew nothing of his whereabouts until 22 July, when persons identified by relatives as members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrived with him at his home, searched the house, and then left with him again. “This second abduction is very worrying, not only as regards Alagie Ceesay’s safety but also for all Gambian journalists, who could be the victims of similar arbitrary abuses carried out with complete impunity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the government to launch a serious and thorough investigation with the aim of locating Ceesay, obtaining his release, and punishing the perpetrators and instigators of his abduction.” ******************************************* Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about Radio Teranga FM manager Alagie Sisay’s disappearance since the evening of 2 July, when two suspected members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) abducted him outside the radio station. His abduction came a day after the NIA questioned all of the staff of the independent newspaper The Voice for two hours at the agency’s Banjul headquarters. Sisay had just finished the meal ending the daily Ramadan fast when a friend told him that two men outside the radio station were asking to see him. Sisay went outside to speak to them and neither his family nor his colleagues have seen him since then. An eye-witness said the two men bundled him into their 4WD vehicle and drove away. His brother said Sisay managed to call him on his mobile phone and had time to say he had been taken by NIA officers before the call was disconnected. His family and colleagues reported his disappearance to police and intelligence officials, who claimed to know nothing of his whereabouts. “We are extremely worried about Alagie Sisay’s disappearance,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “Journalists disappearing after being kidnapped is nothing new in Gambia. The disappearance nine years ago of Chief Ebrima Manneh is still unsolved. “Every day that passes increases our concern about Sisay’s fate. We join the Gambia Press Union in urging the authorities to do everything possible to locate this journalist as quickly as possible.” Radio Teranga FM has long been in the government’s sights. Several members of its staff have been questioned by the NIA in the past. Launched in 2009, it has been shut down three times in recent years by the government. When it last reopened in 2014 (after being closed for 16 months) it was banned from broadcasting press reviews. The Voice staff members who were interrogated by the NIA on 1 July were editor Musa S. Sheriff and reporters Sulayman Ceesay, Bakary Ceesay, Mafugi Ceesay and Amadou Bah. Sheriff was questioned about the way the newspaper operates, its funding and its contacts abroad. They were all also questioned about their families, friends and place of residence, and their photos were taken. The NIA said it was gathering this information in order to be able to guarantee their safety, because “so much is being talked about the paper and its reporters.” Ceesay was detained for an hour by the NIA a month ago for covering a political rally by President Yahya Jammeh. In 2014, Sheriff was the target of an 11-month-long prosecution on a charge of publishing false news that was eventually dismissed. Ranked 151st out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Gambia has been ruled since 1994 by President Jammeh, who is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.” The government deals ruthlessly with troublesome journalists such as Agence France-Presse correspondent Deyda Hydara, who was shot dead in his car in 2004, or Chief Ebrima Manneh, who has been missing since the NIA arrested him in 2006. The few privately-owned media outlets censor themselves and live in fear of arbitrary prosecutions.