Journalist barred from covering case in Gambian court

State security agents barred a journalist from covering an October 15, 2012, hearing of a Supreme Court case of seven prisoners on death row, according to local journalists and news reports.

A security agent at the court in Banjul, the capital, told Bintah Bah, a blogger and senior court journalist with The Daily News, to leave the premises on orders from the office of the president, The Daily News reported on its website. Bah had identified herself as a journalist to the guard, the site said.

Bah was covering the court case of Lang Tombong Tamba, Gambia’s former chief of defense staff, as well as six others who were convicted of treason and sentenced to death for allegedly plotting a coup in 2009, according to news reports.

Bah told CPJ that the guard told her that Modou Saidy, press director of President Yahya Jammeh, had given the order because her newspaper had been shut down and her blog, Women’s Bantabaa, was not registered. Saidy denied ever giving the order, he told CPJ.

“I have been a blogger since 2011 and there is no law that states blogs must be registered. Besides, the court is a public place. This is a clear violation of my rights,” Bah said. Bah is also the vice president of the Women Journalists Association of the Gambia.

Agents from the National Intelligence Agency shut down The Daily News, a thrice-weekly publication, and the daily The Standard on September 14, 2012, without giving an explanation, according to news reports. The Daily News issued a press release after the ban saying the paper would cease operations for only a week then resume publishing.

Local journalists told CPJ they believed the closures were in connection with the publications’ coverage of Jammeh’s announcement in August 2012 to execute every prisoner on death row.