Ameriques Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Gambia18 August 2008

Freelance journalist gets four years in prison or heavy fine for criticising president

Reporters Without Borders “energetically condemns” the sentence of four years in prison or fine of 250,000 dalasis (8,000 euros) which a Banjul court passed today on Fatou Jaw Manneh, a contributor to the website, after convicting her of “sedition” for criticising President Yahya Jammeh in a 2005 article.

“This verdict was not the outcome of due process, it was the result of the president’s personal desire for revenge,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It highlights the authoritarian nature of a ruler who despises the press and uses the police and judicial system for his personal ends. We are relieved that Manneh was able to raise the money for the fine and thereby avoid imprisonment, and we reiterate our solidarity with Gambia’s journalists.”

Concluding proceedings that had dragged on for more than a year, a court in the Banjul district of Kanifing presided by judge Buba Jawo today found Manneh guilty of intention to commit sedition, publication of “seditious words” and publication of “false news intended to create public fear and alarm.”

After imposing the prison sentence, the judge offered the alternative “option” of a fine that had to be paid before the end of the day. Local sources said Manneh managed to raise the amount and will therefore not have to go to prison.

Manneh normally resides in the United States but has not been able return there she was arrested on landing at Banjul international airport on 28 March 2007. The purpose of her trip to Gambia was to visit her family, which was in mourning.

A former reporter for the privately-owned Daily Observer, she was tried for an article in October 2005 in which she accused President Jammeh of “tearing our beloved country to shreds” and described him as “a bundle of terror.”

Jammeh has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom” since 2005. The list is updated each year.

In this country
24 April - Gambia
Regional group asked to intercede on behalf of missing journalist
12 March - Gambia
Adjournment of trials facing editor of the daily The Point
5 February - Gambia
The Point editor faces trial on “false information” charge for reporting diplomat’s arrest
15 December - Gambia
Journalists still live in fear four years after unpunished murder of Deyda Hydara
18 August - Gambia
Newspaper editor arrested again, residence permit seized, in continuing harassment

in the annual report
Gambia - Annual Report 2008
Gambia - Annual Report 2007
Gambia - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists