New York, July 6, 2011--Gambian President Yahya Jammeh must clarify his March 16 comments suggesting that detained journalist "Chief" Ebrima Manneh has died, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ's call comes ahead of the fifth anniversary of the July 7, 2006, arrest of Manneh, left, who disappeared after being taken into government custody.
Gambian National Police spokesman Yorro Mballow told CPJ today that police have no information about Manneh, whose arrest by plainclothes agents of the National Intelligence Agency in the newsroom of the pro-government Daily Observer was witnessed by several colleagues. Despite a handful of reported sightings of Manneh in government custody, and a ruling by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States calling for Manneh's release, the Jammeh administration has typically denied knowledge of the case.
On March 16, however, in public remarks during a meeting with representatives of the Gambian media, Jammeh suggested he had knowledge of Manneh's fate. "Let me make it very clear that the government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh," he said. An unnamed police source quoted by Agence France-Presse in 2009 also suggested Manneh had died in prison.
"The official silence on this case is cynically cruel," said Mohamed Keita, CPJ's Africa advocacy coordinator. "President Jammeh owes the Manneh family an explanation."