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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

AUGUST 9, 2003

Buya Jammeh, The Independent

Gambian police assaulted Jammeh, a reporter for the English-language biweekly The Independent, near the newspaper's offices in the capital, Banjul. According to sources, two police officers stationed a short distance from the newspaper stopped Jammeh on his way to a radio station where he works part-time as a deejay. Alhaji Yorro Jallow, The Independent's managing editor, told CPJ that the officers regularly see staff members from The Independent and could identify Jammeh as a reporter at the newspaper.

The officers asked to search Jammeh's bag but refused to give a reason for the search. After Jammeh refused the officers' request, they overpowered him, confiscating his notebook and several music CDs and cassettes. The officers then beat Jammeh until his face was swollen, according to the journalist's colleagues, who saw him after the attack.

While the officers gave no reasons for their actions, local journalists told CPJ that Jammeh may have been singled out because of his association with The Independent, which had recently run a series of articles and editorials criticizing the government.

Jallow thinks it is also possible that Jammeh was targeted because of a story he wrote about a government official who was convicted of theft in June. While Jammeh was working on the story, soldiers entered the newspaper's offices and warned the staff not to report on the conviction, said Jallow. The editor refused, and Jammeh's story appeared on August 1.

OCTOBER 17, 2003
Posted: October 20, 2003

The Independent

Unidentified individuals mounted an arson attack on the offices of the private, biweekly Independent newspaper, located in a suburb of the capital, Banjul, in the evening.

According to local journalists, three unidentified men assaulted a private security guard in front of the paper's offices, using tear gas and an iron bar and knocking the guard unconscious. After tricking a second guard into leaving his post, the assailants doused the building's windows and doors with gasoline and set it on fire, as well as the electrical meter located outside. The attackers fled the scene without entering the building, local journalists said.

The first guard was hospitalized and is recovering from his injuries.

Staff at the security firm alerted the fire department, which arrived to put out the blaze. Staff also called the police, who inspected the premises the next day. However, journalists at The Independent told CPJ that the fire damaged the power supply to the building, and that the paper would make alternative arrangements to print today's edition.

Gambian journalists said the attack may have come in reprisal for the newspaper's reporting, which is highly critical of the government.

Abdoulie Sey, The Independent
September 19, 2003
Posted: September 23, 2003

On September 19, three men in an unmarked car abducted Sey, editor-in-chief of the private, biweekly Independent, in front of the newspaper's offices in Gambia's capital, Banjul. Sey was subsequently held incommunicado at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) until the evening of September 22, said local journalists who spoke with Sey after his release.

According to Sey, NIA agents interrogated him about an article published in The Independent on the same day of his arrest. The article, an opinion piece titled "Jammeh Under the Microscope," was written by a Gambian journalist based in the United States, and was highly critical of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Discussing Gambia's endemic poverty and corruption, the article's author wrote that the president "failed us all."

On the morning of September 22, the NIA denied any knowledge of Sey's whereabouts and allowed journalists from The Independent to tour the its headquarters to prove that Sey was not in custody, said local journalists. According to Sey, however, during this time agents moved him to another location. He was not beaten during his detention, Sey said, but he was told that his actions would be "monitored" after his release.