|Nanama Keita at the South Africa 2010 World Cup|
The former sports editor of the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper, Mr Nanama Keita has revealed in a message to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) that he flee The Gambia last week in fear for his life.
Mr Keita’s letter to the Accra-based press freedom and free expression watchdog followed a series of news alerts published by the MFWA on his ordeal. Mr Keita, who is in New York, said he fled “after serious attempts by the Gambia security agents to effect my arrest and possibly harm me.”
On Monday, the lower Court in Banjul ordered for the arrest of Mr Keita after he failed to appear in an ongoing “false information charge” brought against him by the police.
He noted his charge emanates from a letter he had written to President Yahya Jammeh on his “wrongful dismissal” from the Daily Observer and as well to “clear my name on the accusation that I was an informant for the US-based Gambian online newspaper -Freedom Newspaper.”
“However, instead of launching an investigating into my claims, after my petition, I found myself behind bars for more than 24 hours before being slapped with the bogus “false information” charge,” he said. “As if that was not enough, I persistently continued to receive life threatening text messages from unknown numbers, telling me to either leave the country or be taught a lesson I may not live to narrate.”
A member of the Gambia Press Union Executive Committee stood surety for Mr Keita when he was granted a court bail of D100, 000 (more than US$3703). However, he wrote: “I understand, some members of the Gambia Press Union felt a bit disappointed with my unceremonious exit, but they failed to understand that fleeing the country was the only option I had if I really wanted to stay alive and safe.”
“With these few lines, I hope that I have cleared your doubts with regards to my exact whereabouts as well as the reason for my fleeing the continent's most repressive country for journalists,” Nanama Keita told the MFWA.
The Voice newspaper understands Mr Keita is among 14 journalists around the world attending the “2011 United Nations Reham al-Farra (RAF) Memorial Journalists Fellowship Programme” which began on September 12 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
His trial is due to resume on September 26, 2011 at the Magistrate Court in the Gambian capital, Banjul.
- Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice Newspaper