Thursday was Freedom Day in the Gambia, an annual holiday unique to the West African nation marking President Yahyah Jammeh’s seizure of power in a 1994 coup. As the president used the occasion to declare a crusade against drugs and corruption, his rhetoric was undercut by the repression of the independent press under his administration.
“People were celebrating freedom while we didn’t have freedom,” Sarata Jabbi-Dibba told CPJ today as remembered Freedom Day last year in the Gambia. Last summer, Dibba and other leaders of the Gambia Press Union spent weeks shuttling between a courthouse and prison on sedition and criminal defamation charges—for issuing a press statement criticizing the president’s insensitive remarks on the unsolved murder of editor Deyda Hydara. Today, Dibba is among four executive members of the union displaced abroad, some of whom were not covered by a presidential pardon extended to Dibba and others, according to CPJ research.
Outside the Gambia, Thursday was also a Global Day of Action spearheaded by Amnesty International to protest human rights violations, including the arrests of journalists, in the West African country. CPJ joined Amnesty International USA and Africa Action in signing a joint petition to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner to urge the U.S. government to exert “firm pressure on the Gambian government to improve Gambia’s worrying human rights situation.”
A copy of the letter