CJFE welcomes news of release of two Gambian Journalists, calls for release of third

Thursday, April 20, 2006
CJFE welcomes the news today that two of the three Independent journalists from The Gambia have been released. We eagerly await news that the third journalist, Lamin Fatty, has also been freed. The newspaper remains closed, with security forces guarding the premises. Editor Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, the managing director, were released from prison on Thursday, April 20, on condition that they report to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul, on Friday. They had been in prison since March 28 when police shut down The Independent newspaper and detained the two journalists. Lamin Fatty was arrested at his home on April 10. All three journalists were held without charges being laid, far beyond the 72-hour limit set by the Constitution. Managing Editor and Publisher of The Independent, Alagi Yorro Jallow, spoke to Musa Saidykhan who reported that the two were fine, but would be seeing a doctor for possible health concerns. He said that they had been held in solitary confinement for the first eight days, but after that were transferred to communal cells. CJFE is still very concerned for Lamin Fatty who remains in prison. Although the reasons behind the detention of the journalists have not been made public, it appears that they are linked to an alleged coup plot, and specifically to an article published in The Independent on March 24 which named 23 people who had been arrested for their alleged participation in the coup attempt. CJFE's President, Arnold Amber says that he "is concerned that the detentions of these journalists, along with the shutting down of the newspaper, are an attempt by the government to silence independent and often critical voices." Journalists from the paper have been arrested and harassed repeatedly, and the newspaper has been attacked twice, as recently as April 2004 when several staff were wounded and the office and printing equipment owned by the paper was destroyed in an arson attack. Alagi Yorro Jallow, a Gambian journalist with a long history of standing up for truthful and courageous reporting, was presented one of CJFE's prestigious International Press Freedom Awards on November 1, 2005. Alagi had been imprisoned 12 times, threatened and harassed even more frequently. Through it all, Alagi persevered and continued to publish The Independent. He is currently living in exile in New York. CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 or send an e-mail.

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