Reporters Without Borders wrote yesterday to Senegal interior minister Ousmane Ngom alerting him to the presence of Gambian security forces within Senegal who are conducting operations to intimidate exiled Gambian journalists.
One of the recent cases mentioned in the letter, an attempt to intimidate Yahya Dampha, a former reporter with the daily Foroyaa who also reports for Amnesty International, is particularly worrying.
Three men went to his home in Dakar on 10 March and one of them, Habib Drammeh, asked him : “Don’t you work for Amnesty International ? We know you still work for Amnesty International. That’s why we want to discuss something with you.” Dampha refused to go with them and they were forced to leave when neighbours intervened.
The letter also cited other cases of “threats and surveillance of exiled journalists in Senegal” in recent years, such at that of Musa Saidykhan, the former editor of the privately-owned weekly The Independent, who receiving anonymous calls and was followed in Dakar on several occasions.
Members of the Gambian security forces have also made enquiries about Mohamed Oury Bah, a Liberian journalist formerly employed by The Independent who fled Gambia at the start of this year after being arrested and threatened several times by the country’s National Intelligence Agency.
Telephone threats were made last year against Isatou Jagne, a former employee of the Banjul-based daily The Point and eye-witness of the December 2004 murder of its editor, Deyda Hydara, who was the Banjul correspondent of AFP and Reporters Without Borders.
Reporters Without Borders told the interior minister in its letter that it decided to refer the situation to him “before you are notified of a kidnapping or a murder.” It added : “We believe that these repeated incidents and this climate of fear being imposed by the NIA, the Gambian intelligence agency, on Senegalese territory are sufficiently disturbing that the interior ministry should take serious measures to put a stop to them.”