Abuja, Nigeria, July 11, 2012--A Gambian judge ordered the arrest of a journalist Tuesday on contempt of court charges, the third instance of a journalist being detained on such charges in as many weeks, according to local journalists.
Police arrested Sidiq Asemota, the legal affairs correspondent of the pro-government Daily Observer, while he was on assignment at the High Court in Banjul, the capital, his employer reported. Judge Emmanuel Nkea of the Special Criminal Court had issued an arrest warrant for Asemota on Monday, news reports said.
Asemota told Pa Malick Faye, the managing editor of the Daily Observer, over the phone that security agents were arresting him because of his June 9 story headlined "Two sentenced for forgery," the newspaper reported. The story was about two Gambian citizens who Nkea had convicted of "economic crime and forgery of official documents." Faye said that no complaint had been lodged about the story and that he was unaware of the cause of the arrest, according to the paper.
Asemota is being held at Mile 2 State Central Prison outside Banjul, according to the Observer. He is due to appear in court on July 13, news reports said.
"It's disturbing to see yet another instance of a Gambian judge summarily locking up a reporter in response to news coverage of court proceedings," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "Sidiq Asemota should be immediately released, and Gambian judicial officials should review these recent contempt charges with an eye toward ending this practice."
Two other journalists have been remanded to prison custody on the orders of court officials in the past three weeks, according to CPJ research. One of them, Lamin Njie, was arrested on Nkea's orders as well.
On June 22, Njie, the deputy editor-in-chief of The Daily News, was arrested on contempt of court accusations for incorrectly reporting that the judge had denied bail to officials accused of tax-related offenses, news reports said. He was released without charge on June 25, the reports said.
On June 20, Taiwo Ade Alagbe, a lower court magistrate in Banjul, ordered the arrest of Abdulhamid Adiamoh, a Nigerian journalist and the managing editor of Today newspaper, news reports said. The journalist was detained in prison for more than a week, beyond the legal limit, before being convicted in connection with an article that was critical of a cross-examination in the criminal trial of a former university lecturer. Adiamoh was ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 dalasi (US$3,100) or serve six months in jail with hard labor.
- For more data and analysis on the Gambia, visit CPJ's Gambia page here.