February 1, 2017
President of the Republic of the Gambia
We at the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, write to seek a meeting with you, or your representative, to discuss ways to improve the climate for the news media in Gambia. CPJ repeatedly raised concerns about the actions of your predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, with regard to the press during his 22 years in power, and sent a delegation to discuss them with senior officials.
We welcomed your December 5, 2016, remark that you did not want to inherit a country where media freedom was fettered and human rights were violated with impunity. We were encouraged to note the January 28, 2017, release of television reporter Bakary Fatty after 74 days of detention without charge.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways your administration might follow up on these important early steps.
In particular, we would like to discuss the case of Daily Observer senior reporter Chief Ebrima Manneh, whom security agents took into custody in July 2006. Your predecessor’s administration repeatedly failed to account for Manneh’s whereabouts, health, or legal status. We urge you to ensure that this is done so that his family, friends, and colleagues might finally know the truth.
A further important step in this direction would be to demonstrate that journalists cannot be killed with impunity in Gambia. Editor and columnist Deyda Hydara, a well-known critic of the Jammeh administration, was shot dead while driving home in Banjul on December 16, 2004. It has been more than 12 years, but no one has ever been brought to justice for that crime, despite a 2014 ruling from the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice finding that Gambia failed to investigate the crime properly and calling for a renewed investigation. Though Gambia is a member of ECOWAS, your predecessor’s administration did not comply with the ruling. We encourage your government to begin a full and credible investigation immediately.
We also encourage you to instruct the Ministry of Justice to review the cases of all journalists who fled the country to escape politicized charges under Jammeh’s rule. They include radio journalist Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, whom a court in November 2016 sentenced in absentia to up to four years in prison on charges of sedition and spreading “false news” for sharing–with two people–a photograph of Jammeh.
We hope that your administration will inaugurate a new era for Gambia’s media, one in which journalists will no longer be prosecuted, surveilled, or jailed for their work. We hope to work with you and your administration to accomplish this shared objective, and hope to hear from you or your representative soon.
African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat
Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia Fatoumata Tambajang
Ambassador of The Gambia to the United Nations Mamadou Tangara
African Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Faith Pansy Tlakula