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Reporters Without Borders today published photographs showing the marks left on the body of a journalist from the blows he received from members of the National Guard while detained earlier this year in Gambia, where two journalists are still in detention.
The journalist’s identity and the circumstances of his imprisonment are known to Reporters Without Borders but are being withheld to protect him. Gambia’s National Guard is an elite corps that is under President Yahya Jammeh’s direct orders and has its headquarters next to the presidential building.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the African Union, the European Union, the United States and Taiwan - Gambia’s leading political and economic partners - to do everything possible to bring the Jammeh regime’s increasingly authoritarian excesses to an end.
“The publication of these photos is an appeal for help,” the organisation said. “Gambia is sinking into violence and despotism. Some political detainees are clearly being brutally treated by the Gambian National Guard. The international community, including the leading African democracies, can no longer remain silent. We believe that the Jammeh government is not fit to host the African Union summit, and that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) should leave Banjul.”
The most recent journalist to be arrested in Gambia was Lamin Cham, a BBC stringer and former editor of the Daily Observer, who was detained by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on 27 May and was released today without being charged. Malick Mboob, a former reporter with the privately-owned Daily Observer and now the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital’s spokesman, was arrested on 26 May and is being held at NIA headquarters in Banjul.
Cham and Mboob were picked up after their names appeared on a list of subscribers to Freedom Newspaper, an opposition news website edited by Pa Nderry Mbai, a Gambian journalist living in self-imposed exile in the United States. After someone hacked into the website, the list was published in Gambia by the pro-government Daily Observer under the headline, “Freedom Newspaper informers exposed.”
The police are reportedly searching for other journalists including Omar Bah, for whom a wanted notice has been issued. Bar was the Daily Observer’s editor until he was fired last October and replaced by a Jammeh loyalist.
The other journalist currently held is Lamin Fatty of the privately-owned bi-weekly The Independent, who was arrested at his home by police on 12 April and was not allowed to see a lawyer for more than a month. He was charged on 24 May with “publishing false news” under a draconian press law providing for heavy prison sentences. Despite the protests of local and international press freedom groups, the law was adopted in 2004, on the eve of the murder of Deyda Hydara, the co-editor of the tri-weekly The Point and correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Reporters Without Borders.