Gambia: Journalist into fourth month of illegal custody

The Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN is deeply disturbed by the continuing detention of Ebrimah Manneh, a journalist with the pro-government Daily Observer.

Manneh, known as “Chief” Ebrimah B. Manneh, was arrested on 11 July 2006 and has reportedly been held in incommunicado detention at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters ever since, seemingly without having been charged with any offence. Even more disturbingly, the NIA has repeatedly denied that they have the journalist in their custody.

It is believed that the reason behind Manneh’s arrest is that he is alleged to have had contact with a foreign journalist before July’s African Union summit, held in the Gambian capital Banjul. Manneh apparently gave this journalist information deemed by the Gambian government to have been damaging to the country’s image.

Manneh’s detention comes at a time when many journalists have found themselves persecuted by the government: Malick Mboob, a former copy editor with the Daily Observer, was only freed on 9 October 2006 after nearly five months incommunicado in the cells of the NIA in Banjul.

The release, which is unconditional, came as a result of an order by the High Court. He was suspected of sending information to the website Freedom Newspaper (www.freedomnewspaper.com) which has been highly critical of President Yahya Jammeh and his government.

Musa Sheriff, of the magazine Gambia News and Report also spent time in detention for the same reason as Mboob. Neither Mboob nor Sheriff face charges.

Meanwhile, Omar Bah, news editor of the Daily Observer, is reported to have fled the country to avoid arrest.

On 10 April, reporter for The Independent, Lamin Fatty was arrested and detained for over two months without charge. He is now facing trial for allegedly publishing false information.

In March this year, editor of The Independent, Musa Saidykhan and managing director, Madi Ceesay, were arrested. The two journalists were released without charge on 20 April. It was reported in July 2006 that Musa Saidykhan had fled abroad for fear of being re-arrested.

The arrests of Fatty, Saidykhan and Ceesay were linked with an investigation into an alleged attempted coup which is said to have taken place on 21 March 2006.

English PEN calls upon the Gambian authorities to cease their persecution of journalists and to allow voices critical of those in power to be heard. PEN also urges the authorities to release “Chief” Ebrimah B. Manneh as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Please send appeals:

– Urging the Gambian authorities to stop the harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists and allow freedom of expression to flourish;

– Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of “Chief” Ebrimah B. Manneh.

Appeals to:

H. E. Yahya A. A. Jammeh

President of the Republic of The Gambia

President’s Office

New Administration Building

Quadrangle, Banjul, The Gambia

e-mail: info@statehouse.gm

H.E. Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare

Chairperson

African Union

P.O. Box 3243

Addis Ababa

Ethiopia

Fax: +251 11 551 7844

Email: KonareAO@africa-union.org

Please remember to send a copy of your appeals to rapidactionnetwork@englishpen.org

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/gambiajournalistintofourthmont/

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