Gambia orders three radio stations to cease broadcasting

Lagos, Nigeria, January 5, 2017–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Gambian authorities to allow three independent radio stations to resume full broadcasting. Taranga FM, Hilltop Radio, and Afri Radio stopped broadcasting on January 1 on the orders of national security agents, who did not give any explanation for the measure, according to news reports.

The closures come amid a political crisis in Gambia after President Yahya Jammeh refused to admit defeat in elections last month. Authorities may have targeted at least one of the stations after it announced details of President-elect Adama Barrow’s inauguration, planned for January 19, an unnamed journalist from Afri Radio was cited in news reports as saying.

“The Gambia government’s decision to summarily censor three radio stations is a clear effort to limit people’s access to information during this critical period of political transition,” said CPJ West Africa Representative Peter Nkanga. “Authorities should immediately and unconditionally allow the radio stations to resume broadcasting and desist from muzzling the press.”

National Intelligence Agency agents and a police officer told staff at the privately-owned Taranga FM they were acting on executive orders to stop the station broadcasting, according to media reports. Afri Radio was allowed back on air January 3 on the condition it broadcast only music, news reports said.

Emil Touray, head of the Gambia Press Union, called the orders to stop broadcasting “a slap in the face” for democracy, according to media reports.

Authorities have repeatedly censored and harassed Taranga FM, CPJ has found. A Gambian court on November 8, 2016, convicted Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the station’s exiled manager, of three counts of sedition and spreading false news, according to media reports. He was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison and a fine of 200,000 Gambian dalasi (US$4674).