Dodou Sanneh, a reporter employed by the state-owned Gambia Radio Television Services (GRTS), was freed yesterday and then fired from his job after being held for a week at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul. No charges were brought against him.
“Once again a Gambian journalist has been thrown in prison, manhandled and then released without any explanation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Once again, no protest was made by any of the countries with some kind of influence over Gambia. The cynicism and cruelty of President Yahya Jammeh’s government is fed by the impunity he enjoys.”
Sanneh was fired from his position as a GRTS reporter by director general Momodou Sanyang. At the time of his arrest, he was responsible for covering the presidential election campaign of the UDP-NRP-GPDP, one of the two opposition alliances. The election is to take place on 22 September.
The authorities never gave any explanation for his arrested. Questioned by journalists while he was still being held, Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay, a pro-Jammeh parliamentarian, and a NIA official claimed that they knew nothing about the case.
12.09.2006 - Public TV reporter secretly detained because of his opposition election rally coverage
The unlawful arrest and detention of Gambian public television reporter Dodou Sanneh in an undisclosed location for the past six days was forcefully condemned today by Reporters Without Borders as another episode in a systematic crackdown on the press by President Yahya Jammeh’s government.
“This latest arrest just two weeks before presidential elections highlights the despotic character of the incumbent’s government,” the press freedom organisation said. “Sanneh seems to have been arrested for not being sufficiently servile towards the country’s current rulers. If the African Union does not at the very least ask Jammeh to respect all the treaties and charters he has signed, it will never again be able speak out about rigged election anywhere in the continent.”
Reporters Without Borders learned from several local sources that did not want to be identified that Sanneh, who works for the state-owned Gambian Radio and Television Services (GRTS), has been held since 7 September. He had been given the job of covering the election campaign of the opposition UDP-NRP-GPDP alliance, which is backing lawyer Ousainou Darboe as presidential candidate. He was reportedly arrested because his coverage of its meetings was considered “not objective.”
The sources do no know where Sanneh is being held or what charges might have been brought against him. He is the 10th journalist to be arrested in Gambia since the start of the year. None of these arrests has complied with the legal requirement that detainees must be charged within 72 hours and must be allowed access to a lawyer.
The Gambian capital of Banjul is the headquarters of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). It also hosted an African Union summit on 1-2 July.