US-based Gambian journalist detained

New York, March 30, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about reports that a U.S.-based Gambian journalist and outspoken critic of President Yahyah Jammeh has been detained since Wednesday by security services.

Fatou Jaw Manneh, political commentator with the U.S.-based opposition news Web site and former senior reporter of the private Daily Observer, was arrested on her arrival at the airport in the capital Banjul, according to several sources. Her family has not heard from her since, they said. The reason for her arrest and her place of detention are unknown, but the move was linked to a series of editorials very critical of Jammeh’s government, according to local journalists. CPJ’s calls to the police and the information ministry were not returned.

“We are concerned about the safety of Fatou Jaw Manneh,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the authorities to explain the detention of Manneh or release her immediately.”

Manneh obtained political asylum in the U.S. in late 1994, shortly after Jammeh seized power in a coup, exiled former Daily Observer editor Demba Jawo told CPJ. Unsolved arson attacks on media houses, arrests, extended secret detentions and the unsolved murder of a prominent editor have forced many journalists into exile in recent years.

In September 2003, Manneh’s editorial entitled “Jammeh under the microscope,” led to the three-day detention without charge of Editor Abdoulie Sey of the defunct private biweekly The Independent, according to CPJ research. The article criticized Jammeh’s regime for alleged endemic poverty and corruption. She is a leading member of a U.S.-based opposition group called Save The Gambia Democracy Project, according to editor Ebrima Sankareh of the online forum