Police prevent Independent staff from reopening the paper

New York, April 25, 2006— Two vanloads of police officers prevented The Independent from reopening today and briefly detained an employee who came to unlock the offices of the Gambian private newspaper. The police action came despite statements from National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and other government officials that the paper would be allowed to publish following a month-long ban, local reporters told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The police vans arrived at the offices in the capital Banjul after receptionist Juldeh Sowe came to open up. Police detained him and told him to report to a police station tomorrow. When other Independent employees arrived later, two plainclothes officers prevented them from entering.

“This is only the latest in a series of repressive measures aimed at silencing The Independent, one of the few publications in the Gambia that openly criticizes the government,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Gambian authorities must lift all restrictions on The Independent, and cease their harassment of its staff immediately.”

A journalist from The Independent, Lamin Fatty, has been in NIA custody without charge since April 10. For more information on Fatty’s detention, see CPJ’s April 24 alert: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/africa/gambia24apr06na.html.

On March 28, Gambian security agents sealed the offices of The Independent and detained Editor Musa Saidykhan and General Manager Madi Ceesay. Saidykhan and Ceesay were kept in NIA custody for three weeks before being released without charge on April 20.