News

September 16, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Authorities use trial to continue persecuting radio journalist


Reporters Without Borders condemns the continuing harassment of Teranga FM radio manager Alagie Sisay, who is being tried on charges of sedition. After 28 days of illegal detention, Sisay began being tried on 4 August but the trial has already been adjourned 11 times in the past six weeks and only two of the 11 sessions have been used to hear witnesses while the other nine were given over to hearing and systematically rejected requests for his release on bail. Sisay is accused of using his mobile phone on 16 July to send a photomontage of a gun pointed at President Yahya Jammeh with a caption suggesting that a sniper was ready to strike six days later. As well as sedition, the charges against him include intending to distribute seditious documents, distributing seditious documents and publishing false news. Held at Banjul’s Two Mile prison, Sisay has pleaded not guilty. “In the light of all the redundant charges and the repeated adjournments, we can only conclude that this trial is designed to perpetuate the harassment of Alagie Sisay,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “Sisay is not getting a fair trial and the aim of the all these postponements is clearly to get him to buckle. We call for his immediate release because his lawyer has repeatedly demonstrated that the charges do not justify his continued detention.” Sisay was originally arrested on 4 July with no reason being given and was held incommunicado until 13 July, when he was released without any explanation only to be re-arrested four days later, again for no specific reason. His family only learned of his whereabouts when he was brought before a judge and charged on 4 August. The Gambian authorities have been targeting Teranga FM for years and have closed it down three times in 2011, in 2013 and in 2015. 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 constantly harasses journalists and who is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.” In one of the latest examples of the government’s arbitrary behaviour towards the media, the communication ministry withdrew the accreditation on 2 September of an Al Jazeera crew that had come to do a report on HIV treatment in Gambia. Officials said only President Jammeh could give the crew permission to film but it just so happened that the president was on holiday.