Two members of Gambia’s National Guard were involved in an arson attack against the printworks of the bi-weekly The Independent on 13 April, the deputy Hamat Bah, leader of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) told parliament on 23 July.
The opposition leader named them as Corporal Sanna Manjang and Sherif Guisseh. He also alleged that Manjang, who was burned during the attack, had been treated at the home of the commander of the presidential guard Major Bajinka.
Interior minister Samba Bah told deputies that an investigation was under way and that it was not yet known who was responsible.
Ebrahima Sillah, correspondent for the BBC in Gambia, was also the target of an arson attack overnight on 14-15 August. The privately-owned press has condemned the lack of will on the part of the authorities to find those responsible for a wave of attacks against independent media.
The Independent again the target of an arson attack
"This is the second attack of this kind in six months on this independent newspaper, which is known for criticising the government," Reporters Without Border said. "Even if the police seem determined to shed light on matters this time, we will remain vigilant and we will follow the investigation closely."
According to several witnesses, six hooded gunmen burst into The Independent’s printing works at around 2:00 a.m. on 13 April, firing shots in the air and ordering staff to lie on the ground. One of the intruders then set fire to the newspaper’s new printing press, a Heidelberg Kord 64 acquired in January. It was completely destroyed.
Namory Traore, a sports journalist who is also in charge of the press, was able to splash gasoline over the gunmen. This prompted them to flee and one of them, who was badly burned, dropped his firearm as he left.
The Independent was already the target of an arson attack on 18 October 2003 but thanks to the fire brigade’s rapid response, there was only minor damage. The police did not even bother to go to the newspaper to see what had happened.
Published twice weekly, The Independent tends to be very critical of the government and is subjected to harassment by the National Intelligence Agency, which imprisoned its editor, Abdoulie Sey, for several days in September 2003.