The Gambia shuts independent radio station

New York, August 15, 2012–Gambian national security agents summarily shut an independent radio station early this morning without providing an explanation, according to news reports. Authorities have censored Taranga FM at least twice before in retaliation for its exclusive news review program, according to news reports.

Officers of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency stormed Taranga FM studios in Sinchu Alhagie village, southwest of Banjul, the capital, and forced it off the air, according to news reports. The officials also took the station’s license as well as the contact information of its board members, local journalists said. The officers told the station staff only that they had received “directives from above,” news reports said.

In January last year, ahead of the presidential elections, the National Intelligence Agency ordered the station to halt its news review program, which broadcasts news in local languages from independent English-language newspapers, according to news reports. In July 2011, the government again ordered the station to drop the program, according to news reports. The station’s broadcasts had generated a lot of attention from the mainly illiterate public.

Local journalists told CPJ they believed the closure could be linked to the station’s live weekly talk show, which features interviews from both the ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, and opposition parties. On Sunday, the station had aired comments made by opposition leader Omar Jallow who said President Yahya Jammeh had a worse human rights record than his predecessor, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, whom Jammeh deposed in a 1994 coup. In a March interview on state television, Jammeh had branded the opposition leaders “dogs” over their decision to boycott that month’s parliamentary elections citing government intimidation, according to news reports.

“In its assault on Taranga FM, the Gambian government has silenced an essential source of news and shown again its disregard for citizens’ right to independent information,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “The radio station should be allowed to resume broadcasting immediately.”

Several independent media outlets, including radio stations Citizen FM, Radio 1 FM, and Sud FM and The Independent newspaper, have been shut by the Gambian government in recent years, according to CPJ research. Repression of the press under Jammeh’s administration has turned the Gambia into one of the most repressive countries for African journalists, CPJ research shows.

  • For more data and analysis on the Gambia, visit CPJ’s Gambia page here.