|Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa|
“It is unacceptable that security officers stormed into a radio station and forced it off air without any valid explanation,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, referring to the arbitrary shut down of Taranga FM, an independent community radio in Gambia.
On the night of 14-15 August, 2012, Gambia’s most dreadful security service, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) raided and shut down the Sinchu Alhagie village-based radio station situated south-west of the Gambian capital, Banjul.
“This act is another example of the intimidating tactics used in the Gambia to stifle the press and violate the right to freedom of expression,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa. “The arbitrary closure of Taranga FM is an undue interference in freedom of expression by the state and will deprive the Gambian public of their right to access information, especially in local languages.”
“We urge the Gambian authorities to permit the radio to resume its normal programmes and return its equipment,” she added.
Taranga FM has been previously shut down between January and August 2011. In an August 21 statement, ARTICLE 19 said it is concerned this most recent raid comes at a time when the “Gambia is seeing increasing violations of the right to freedom of expression.”
The director of the radio station, Mr. Ismaila Ceesay told ARTICLE 19 that he is not clear what prompted the raid as he had not received any notification of the problem which would have enabled him to follow up deal with it.
However, the multinational press freedom and free expression watchdog said raiding the station without informing the station owners or managers of the legal basis for the closure violates the rule of law and due process.
It referred to the International Covenant for Civil and Political rights which requires under part one (1) of the three-part test “that any restriction to the right to freedom of expression be carried out in accordance to a law, not as a result of an arbitrary decision.”
On the night of 14 to 15 August 2012, around midnight, officers of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrived in a convoy of three vehicles to Taranga FM and halted the broadcast of the radio.
The Agency’s officials said they were acting upon directives from the authorities to immediately shut down the station, according to local media reports. The licence of the radio, names and telephone numbers of the board members were collected by the security agents before leaving the station.
Since its establishment in 2009, Taranga FM has been subjected to tight control and harassment by the authorities through the NIA.
Following the shutdown of the radio station in 2011 and after it resumed operations five months later it was again asked to suspend its daily news review broadcast in local languages (Wolof and Mandinka), popularly known as “Xibari Besbi” (News of the Day).
Written by Modou S. Joof
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