Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gambian Journalist Trial Resumes Monday

Dailynews: Gambian Journalist Momodou S. Jallow
The Daily News reporter Momodou S. Jallow is due to make his 2nd appearance in court on Monday February 6, 2012, following allegations of criminal defamation against a local chief, Mamadou Lamin Baldeh, in an article captioned: "Presidential Hajj Package Scandal Chief Baldeh Allegedly Bribes Lover”.

Jallow was arraigned on  January 24, 2012 before a provincial magistrate in the town of Bansang. "His case however, did not proceed as the court was busy with other matters," an unnamed source told the Daily News.  

The charges, brought by the police against the journalist followed allegations by a rice farmer, Boto Fatajo, that the Chief gave out his (Fatojo) President Jammeh sponsored-Hajj ticket to a lover. The Gambian leader,  Yahya Jammeh gives out tickets to Muslims yearly to embark on the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. 

Message from abroad
The Accra-based press and free expression watchdog, the Media Foundation for West Africa, MFWA said the journalist did his work diligently by carrying the other side of the story. It raises concerns over the authorities handling of the matter. 

“At the time the woman was making the allegation, the chief was not there. So [Jallow] acted responsibly and contacted the chief”, the Vianna-based International Press Institute (IPI) quoted Mr. Saikou Jammeh, the newspaper's editor to have said.  “This is fair and balanced. The charges are out of place.” 

“No journalist should ever face criminal charges as a result of his or her work,” said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills. “We call for charges against Momodou S. Jallow to be dropped immediately.”

Jallow was repeatedly reported to have been asked to report to the Bansang police station on several occasions, but the United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the police handling of affair is "harassment of the journalist". 

“Gambian police must immediately stop harassing Momodou Jallow for giving voice to farmers’ grievances. Repeatedly summoning a journalist to court and threatening him with charges is intimidation designed to silence criticism,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said.
"Police in Gambia are harassing a journalist for reporting farmers’ complaints against a local official accused of mismanaging public resources," the CPJ said on January 10, citing local journalists and news reports. "In Jallow’s story in the Daily News, a rice farmer accused Chief Baldeh of misallocating a ticket sponsored by President Yahya Jammeh to travel to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the hajj. The article also cited farmers raising questions about Baldeh’s management of the finances of a local cooperative". 

 The Author, Modou S. Joof, is a Gambian journalist, News Editor of The Voice Newspaper in Banjul and Publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard. 

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