Journalist released after nearly five months in detention

New York, October 12, 2006—Gambian authorities released a journalist on Monday after detaining him for nearly five months without charge, according to news reports and local sources. The journalist was arrested in a crackdown on a U.S.-hosted opposition Web site.

Malick Mboob, a former copy editor for the pro-government Daily Observer, had been detained at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) since his May 25 arrest on suspicion of furnishing information to Freedom Newspaper ( Freedom Newspaper is run by Pa Nderry M’bai, a Gambian journalist based in the United States. It is known for running pointed commentary criticizing President Yahya Jammeh and his ruling APRC party. Two other journalists—Pa Modou Faal of the state-owned broadcaster GRTS and Musa Sheriff of the independent magazine Gambia News & Report—were arrested with Mboob but subsequently released.

In an interview with CPJ today, Mboob said he was questioned just once about a single communication to M’bai in response to a Freedom Newspaper article alleging the hospitalization of the president’s mother. He denied having any link to M’bai. He was held incommunicado, he said, and his office, home and email account were searched.

On Monday, a Banjul court ordered the NIA to release Mboob after his lawyer threatened to file a suit demanding his unconditional release, he told CPJ. Gambian law requires that detainees be brought before a court within 72 hours.

“The extended detention of individuals without charge is in blatant disregard of the Gambia’s own laws,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The case of Malik Mboob is an alarming illustration of authorities’ growing persecution of members of the media.”

Mboob said he has not been charged but has been ordered to report to the NIA on Friday.

Another journalist, “Chief” Ebrimah B. Manneh of the Daily Observer, has been missing since July 7. His whereabouts are unknown, according to local sources. Since March, government forces have shut down a leading independent newspaper, jailed journalists without due process, forced others into exile, and brought criminal charges against a reporter under a repressive media law.