Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that reporter Augustine Kanjia of The Point daily newspaper, who had been held since 22 June at Serrekunda police station in Banjul, was released on bail late yesterday.
“We nonetheless again urge President Yahya Jammeh to respect the free circulation of views in Gambia and to stop hounding the media, especially the opposition newspaper Foroyaa and the independent newspaper The Point,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The sedition charges against all the journalists arrested last week must also be dropped.”
Kanjia was freed late yesterday afternoon on payment of 50,000 dalasis (1,350 euros) in bail although he has not been charged. He was arrested while covering the appearance in court of the six journalists arrested last week. Officials claimed that he took photos of the hearing although a witness told Reporters Without Borders he was just changing his camera’s memory card at the time.
23.06.09 - Six journalists of the Gambia Press Union released on bail, another arrested
Reporters Without Borders today expressed its relief after learning of the release on bail yesterday of the six journalists accused of “seditious publication” and imprisoned at Mile Two jail in Banjul. At the same time, Augustine Kanjia, of the daily The Point, was arrested.
“The release from jail of these six journalists is obviously good news, but the relief will only be complete when the accusation of “seditious publication” against them is dropped,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“This positive development should not allow it to be forgotten the fear aroused by this wave of arrests. We urge moreover the immediate release of Augustine Kanjia”, the organisation added.
Six journalists – the secretary general of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) Emil Touray, its treasurer Pa Modou Fall, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh, respectively publisher and editor of the independent daily The Point, as well as two staff on the newspaper Foroyaa, Sam Sarr, editor and Abubakar Saidykhan, reporter –, held for the last four days in Mile Two jail were brought to Kanifing police court in the Banjul suburbs yesterday and all were bailed in the sum of 200,000 dalasis (about 5,400 euros). The GPU vice-president, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, who was arrested at the same time as the others, the mother of a small child, was bailed on 18 June.
All the journalists are due to appear in court again for on 7 July for trial on the “seditious publication” charge, for publishing a statement calling on President Yahya Jammeh to acknowledge his government’s responsibility in the 2004 murder of Deyda Hydara, the editor and co-founder of The Point, who was also correspondent in Gambia for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reporters Without Borders.
A few days previously, in an interview with government television GRTS, President Jammeh denied any state implication in the killing. Journalists called his comments “provocative” and “ill-timed”.
Many journalists and families of the defendants attending the court hearing yesterday as did the US and UK ambassadors. A journalist on The Point, Augustine Kanjia, who is of Sierra Leone origin, was arrested and taken to the police station in Serrekunda. He is accused of having taken photos of the court and those attending. An eye witness told Reporters Without Borders that Kanjia was simply changing the memory card on his camera.
Thirty eight press freedom organisations on 22 June signed an appeal launched by Reporters Without Borders calling for the release of the six journalists jailed in Mile Two prison.
These organisations are:
- 1. Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
- 2. Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP), Algeria
- 3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
- 4. ARTICLE 19 (A19), U.K.
- 5. Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
- 6. Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Serbia
- 7. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
- 8. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
- 9. Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI), U.S.A.
- 10. Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
- 11. Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), Honduras
- 12. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), U.S.A.
- 13. Exiled Journalists Network (EJN),UK
- 14. Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Nepal
- 15. Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
- 16. Index on Censorship, U.K.
- 17. Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna -TR), Turkey
- 18. Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
- 19. Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
- 20. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
- 21. International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, U.K
- 22. International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
- 23. Journaliste en Danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
- 24. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
- 25. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
- 26. Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana
- 27. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
- 28. Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
- 29. Media Watch, Bangladesh
- 30. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Somalia
- 31. Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation (OLPEC), Tunisia
- 32. Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), American Samoa
- 33. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada), Palestinia
- 34. Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ), Kyrgyzstan
- 35. Reporters sans frontières (RSF), France
- 36. West African Journalists' Association (WAJA), Ghana/Senegal
- 37. World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada
- 38. World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
- 39. World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), U.S.A.