By Alhagie Jobe
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have expressed concerns about the threats, arrests and detention faced by journalists in The Gambia ahead of the general elections scheduled to take place on 1st December.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the global voice of journalists which represents more than 600,000 journalists with over 179 affiliated organizations in 140 countries called on the government of The Gambia to uphold press freedom and ensure the safety of journalists throughout the election period.
“We call on the government of The Gambia to uphold press freedom and ensure the safety of journalists while covering the election campaign as well as the entire election process,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.
The call by IFJ came a week after freelance journalist and documentary producer, Alagi Manka and journalist Yunus Salieu of the Daily Observer were arrested on Thursday 10 November and detained overnight at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul.
Yunus was arrested by the soldiers for using his phone to photograph sympathizers of the ruling APRC Party who were celebrating at President Jammeh’s nomination while Alagi Manka was arrested for snapping the crowd of the President Jammeh’s sympathizers. Yunus was released later on Friday, while Manka was still detained at the NIA headquarters.
Meanwhile, the director of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Mr Momodou Sabally was relieved of his duties on 8 November and has since been held at the NIA. The journalist Bakary Fatty of the same state owned GRTS has also been in NIA custody since Tuesday 8 November.
“There has been no news about the reasons and causes of their arrest and detention. The detention of these journalists is in violation of the Gambia Constitution which states that “anyone arrested on suspicion of committing an offence must be brought before a competent court of law within 72 hours or released on bail” the IFJ concluded.