New York, October 20, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Friday, October 17, arson attack on the offices of the private, biweekly Independent newspaper, located in a suburb of the capital, Banjul.
According to local journalists, on the evening of October 17, three unidentified men assaulted a private security guard in front of the paper’s offices, using tear gas and an iron bar and knocking the guard unconscious. After tricking a second guard into leaving his post, the assailants doused the building’s windows and doors with gasoline and set it on fire, as well as the electrical meter located outside. The attackers fled the scene without entering the building, local journalists said.
The first guard was hospitalized and is recovering from his injuries.
Staff at the security firm alerted the fire department, which arrived to put out the blaze. Staff also called the police, who inspected the premises the next day. However, journalists at The Independent told CPJ that the fire damaged the power supply to the building, and that the paper would make alternative arrangements to print today’s edition.
Gambian journalists said the attack may have come in reprisal for the newspaper’s reporting, which is highly critical of the government.
“We call on Gambian authorities to conduct a full and independent investigation into this attack, and to ensure a safe environment for journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.