|ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa Fatou Jagne Senghore|
The multinational free expression advocacy agency, ARTICLE19 on Tuesday called on the Gambian police to immediately drop all charges brought against two journalists that were detained while trying to apply for necessary permission to protest against recent executions.
“Arresting and charging journalists that are seeking permission from the police to organise a peaceful demonstration is unlawful, arbitrary and a negation of the very essence of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest,” ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa Fatou Jagne Senghore said on September 11.
“We urge the Gambian authorities to immediately drop the charges against the two journalists,” she added.
The right to peaceful protest is recognised under Section 25 of the Gambian Constitution as well as international human rights treaties ratified by The Gambia.
On this backdrop, ARTICLE19 said: “It is absurd to qualify a request for clearance from the police for a peaceful demonstration as an offence.”
Baboucarr Ceesay, first Vice President of the Gambia Press Union and a journalist with The Daily News, and Abubacarr Saidykhan, a freelance journalist, were arrested and detained on 7 September 2012 at the Banjul police headquarters.
The two journalists had been invited to the police station in relation to their application for permission to hold a peaceful protest against the recent mass-executions of death-row inmates. On 8 September they were seen to be taken in handcuffs by the police to search their respective houses and then taken back to the police headquarters in Banjul.
The two journalists were kept in police custody until 10 September and then charged with “conspiracy to commit felony” after the initial charges of “incitement to violence” where dropped.
They were each subsequently granted bail to the sum of 250000 dalasi (USD 8,135). Ceesay and Saidykhan were also asked to report to the police on 17 September.
“The Gambian human rights record has worsened over the past two decades with the situation escalating recently with President Jammeh ordering the executions of death-row inmates in late August 2012,” the rights group said. “It is believed that 38 other inmates are under imminent threat of undergoing the same brutal fate.”
Written by Modou S. Joof