March 22, 2019

Gambia: Missing editor died in detention in 2008 after mistreatment

Manneh was arrested in 2006 under Yahya Jammeh's rule. Photo ; AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for sanctions against those responsible for Gambian journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh’s death in detention in 2008, the circumstances of which have been revealed by the Trumpet newspaper.

The editor of the Daily Observer newspaper, Manneh disappeared in detention after his arrest on 7 July 2006. According to Trumpet’s source, he died while being transferred from prison to Diabugu Bapata hospital in 2008 and was unceremoniously buried beside a latrine pit behind a police station.  

He was physically mistreated before his death, the same source said.  

“The positive political reforms seen since Adama Barrow became president need to be reflected in sanctions against the persons named in this case,” said Assane Diagne, the head of RSF’s West Africa office. “It would send a clear signal that the impunity for crimes against journalists that characterized Yahya Jammeh’s rule is now over.”  

Manneh was arrested for unclear reasons five days after the end of a two-day Africa Union summit held in the Gambian capital of Banjul on 1-2 July 2006. The authorities accused the independent media of disrupting the event and arrested several of their representatives.  

In January 2007, the opposition tri-weekly Foroyaa revealed that Manneh was being held in Fatoto, a small town 400 km east of the capital. A person who had been in Mile Two prison subsequently told RSF that Manneh was transferred to a Banjul hospital in July 2007 and that he was in a very poor physical condition at the time. This witness, whose account was credible, also said Manneh died in detention.  

The case aroused a great deal of international concern and, in 2008, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), which is based in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, filed a suit on Manneh’s behalf against then President Yahya Jammeh’s government before the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  

The Gambian government never sent a representative to the court’s hearings on the case, preferring to say nothing. The court ruled in Manneh’s favour and ordered the government to pay 100,000 US dollars in compensation.  

Gambia is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, 21 places higher than in 2017. This was the world’s biggest rise in this year’s index.