Gambian journalist sentenced to two years in prison

November 23, 2016 2:06 PM ET

A Gambian court on November 8, 2016, convicted Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, an exiled radio journalist and manager of community station Taranga FM, of three counts of sedition and spreading false news, according to media reports. The court, convicting the journalist in absentia, sentenced Ceesay to two years in prison and a fine of 200,000 Gambian dalasi (US$4674). Ceesay risks an additional two years in prison if he fails to pay the fines, the reports said. The trial judge said an order would be served on Gambia's Inspector General of Police to "apprehend and arrest [Cessay] as a fugitive to be brought to serve his sentence," news reports said.

Officers of Gambia's National Intelligence Agency arrested Ceesay on July 2, 2015, released him on July 13, arrested him again on July 17, and on August 4 charged him with sedition for sharing--with two people--a picture of President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him that authorities said was intended to "raise discontent, hatred, or disaffection among the inhabitants of the Gambia," according to news reports. Ceesay pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied any wrongdoing, news reports said. Ceesay was refused bail and denied visits by his family, the reports said. Ceesay said he was tortured and hospitalized several times while in state custody, according to media reports. He escaped from hospital on April 20, 2016, and fled the country.

Ceesay was also arrested on January 1, 2015, and held overnight after a failed military coup on December 30, 2014, according to media reports. His radio station, Taranga FM, was forced to stop broadcasting.

Ceesay reported to the police and the National Intelligence Agency periodically for two months, he told CPJ at the time. Taranga FM, which translated news from international media and local newspapers into local languages, had been arbitrarily shut down three times in fewer than five years. National Intelligence Agency officers interrogated journalists with the station several times in relation to their work, according to the Gambia Press Union and CPJ research.

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