State TV reporter jailed after covering opposition campaign

New York, September 12, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the secret detention of a television reporter in the Gambia who was covering an opposition candidate running in the September 22 presidential election.

Dodou Sanneh of state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) was detained September 8, according to sources who did not wish to be identified for fear of retribution by the authorities. He is the third journalist believed to be held by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the sources said. Sanneh is thought to be at the headquarters of the NIA in the capital Banjul. A NIA official contacted by CPJ could not provide any information.

“It is outrageous that a journalist can be locked up without explanation and held in an undisclosed location,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The government’s continued violations of press freedom are making a mockery of the democratic process in the Gambia. We call on the authorities to release Dodou Sanneh immediately.”

Since March, the government has shut a leading independent newspaper, detained at least 10 journalists, and brought a reporter to trial under a repressive new law.

Local sources said the day before his arrest Sanneh was taken off an assignment covering a campaign appearance by Ousainou Darboe, one of two opposition candidates running against President Yahya Jammeh. It was not clear who or what prompted the move. The following day, the NIA summoned Sanneh and arrested him, the sources said.

A Banjul-based journalist told CPJ that media coverage of opposition candidates had dwindled since the arrest. Gambian government officials were not available for comment.

Another journalist, “Chief” Ebrimah B. Manneh of the pro-government Daily Observer, has been missing since July 7 and is believed by several sources to be in NIA custody. Former journalist Malick Mboob has been in the agency’s custody since May 26, according to CPJ research. Officials contacted by CPJ have declined to comment on the cases.