New York, September 23, 2003—Abdoulie Sey, editor-in-chief of the private, biweekly Independent, was released from detention yesterday evening in Gambia, said sources in the capital, Banjul.
On September 19, three men in an unmarked car abducted Sey in front of the newspaper’s offices in Banjul. Sey was subsequently held incommunicado at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) until the evening of September 22, said local journalists who spoke with Sey after his release.
According to Sey, NIA agents interrogated him about an article published in The Independent on the same day of his arrest. The article, an opinion piece titled “Jammeh Under the Microscope,” was written by a Gambian journalist based in the United States, and was highly critical of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Discussing Gambia’s endemic poverty and corruption, the article’s author wrote that the president “failed us all.”
Yesterday morning, the NIA denied any knowledge of Sey’s whereabouts and allowed journalists from The Independent to tour its headquarters to prove that Sey was not in custody, said local journalists. According to Sey, however, during this time agents moved him to another location. He was not beaten during his detention, Sey said, but he was told that his actions would be “monitored” after his release.
Local journalists said that Sey may leave The Independent for fear of further reprisals.
“This arrest and interrogation of journalist because of a published article is deplorable,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on Gambian authorities to cease this harassment of journalists who are simply doing their jobs.”