Gambia Abuses Human Rights by Detaining Journalists: UN

Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO
Stop killing journalists. Photo: UNESCO

The United Nations (UN) human rights agency said Tuesday it is concerned that two weeks after their detention, two Gambian journalists continue to be held incommunicado, with no access to family members or lawyers.

Momodou Sabally, the head of the Gambia Radio and Television Services and Bakary Fatty, a reporter for the same organisation, have been arbitrarily detained by the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul since 8 November with no charges laid against them.

Another journalist who was arrested on 10 November was freed after six days without any charges. A number of other people, including a magistrate, an opposition supporter and a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, also remain in incommunicado detention.

[ ‘End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ ]

The latest detentions come as 30 members of the Gambia’s main opposition party are serving out three-year prison sentences following their participation in peaceful protests in mid-April.

Incommunicado detention without charge is a clear violation of the Gambian constitution, which requires detainees to be brought before court within 72 hours, and of the country’s international human rights obligations.

“In the run up to the presidential elections of 1 December, it is particularly crucial that the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are fully respected,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The detention of journalists is likely to intimidate the media in general – which is particularly damaging in an electoral context. We call on the Government to release all those who are being detained for their exercise of these rights.”

The spokesperson also stated that the UN agency is also deeply concerned about the continued failure of the authorities to investigate the deaths in custody of two members of the opposition, Ebrima Solo Krummah and opposition leader Solo Sandeng earlier this year.

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Rakesh Raman