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Gambia5 February 2009

The Point editor faces trial on “false information” charge for reporting diplomat’s arrest

Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the Gambian authorities continue to hound The Point, a privately-owned daily based in Banjul. Its editor, Pap Saine, was charged with publishing false information yesterday, two days after being arrested and then freed on bail for reporting the arrest of a Gambian diplomat. Saine is to appear in court again on 19 February.

“Saine’s arrest comes four years after the still unpunished murder of his childhood friend and co-founder of The Point, Deyda Hydara, and shows that President Yahya Jammeh’s government is still bent on persecuting the country’s last independent daily,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“We are shocked by the behaviour of the police and intelligence services, who do not hesitate to treat a well-known and respected journalist as a common criminal,” the press freedom organisation added. “The charge brought against him is absurd and the only logical thing to do would be to dismiss the case entirely.”

Saine, who is also the Reuters correspondent in Gambia, pleaded not guilty when he appeared before a court in Kanifing, 10 km from Banjul, at midday yesterday. Judge Sagarr Jahateh ordered him freed on bail of 50,000 dalasis (1,800 euros) and adjourned the case until 19 February.

Saine and one of his reporters, Modou Sanyang, were arrested on 2 February and taken to police headquarters in Banjul, where they were placed in a cell normally used for serious crime suspects. Sanyang was released soon afterwards but Saine was held until late in the evening and was told to present himself to the police again the next morning.

The police wanted Saine to reveal his source for a report with no by-line in the 30 January issue that said Lamini Sabi Sanyang, the financial attaché at Gambia’s embassy in the United States, was arrested shortly after his return to Gambia, taken to police headquarters and then transferred to Mile Two prison. Saine refused to divulge his source.

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Adjournment of trials facing editor of the daily The Point
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Journalists still live in fear four years after unpunished murder of Deyda Hydara
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