Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the six journalists – all members of the Gambia Press Union – who were given two-year jail sentences on sedition charges on 6 August were released yesterday evening from the prisons where they were being held, Mile Two and Mile Jeshwang, after receiving a pardon from President Yahya Jammeh.
“The happy ending must not be allowed to eclipse the injustice these six leading journalists suffered,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Despite being innocent, they spent a month in prison, far from their families and, in some cases, at a danger to their lives because of poor health. We hope they can now be safely reunited with their families and colleagues and that, in the wake of this pardon, the president will now loosen the vice on the Gambian media.”
The six GPU journalists were freed after the state TV station GRTS quoted the president’s office as saying they had been “pardoned” by the president. Reporters Without Borders has been told that President Jammeh’s grounds for issuing the pardon were to mark Ramadan.
Relatives of the journalists talked today to Reporters Without Borders about their joy. “Last night, I could not believe it,” one said. “The ordeal is over,” another said. “We have been courageous and now we hope that the persecution will end.”
The Banjul high court convicted the journalists on six charges ranging from defamation to “seditious publication” for issuing a joint statement on behalf of the GPU calling on President Jammeh to recognise his government’s responsibility for journalist Deyda Hydara’s murder in 2004. Read the GPU statement
The six freed journalists are:
- Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Gambia Press Union vice-president
- Emil Touray, GPU secretary-general
- Pa Modou Fall, GPU treasurer
- Pap Saine, publisher of the independent newspaper The Point and Reuters correspondent
- Ebrima Sawaneh, The Point editor
- Sam Sarr, editor of the opposition newspaper Foroyaa