APRIL 13, 2004
Posted: April 14, 2004
The printing press of the private, Banjul-based biweekly The Independent
was attacked at around 3 a.m. According to local sources, six armed men
stormed the building housing The Independent‘s printing press in
Kanifing, a suburb of the capital, Banjul. The men fired shots inside
the building before dousing equipment with gasoline and setting it ablaze.
Journalists who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident said the
assailants had attempted to lock employees inside the burning building,
but that all staff members escaped. Three were injured when they struggled
to free themselves.
The Independent‘s printing press had only been operating for three
months. All of the newspaper’s printing equipment, and all copies of today’s
edition, were destroyed in the attack.
This is not the first time The Independent, known for its feisty
criticism of the government, has come under attack. In October 2003, three
unidentified men set fire to the newspaper’s main offices, forcing staff
to relocate temporarily. The Independent Editor-in-Chief
Abdoulie Sey said that the newspaper’s management decided to separate
their printing press from their main office after the October attack.
Despite promises of a police investigation into the October fire, The
Independent has received no word from authorities about progress in
Sey told CPJ that the latest attack would not keep the newspaper from
publishing or affect its editorial stance. Journalists at the paper are
currently working on Friday’s edition, which they hope to publish with
the help of other media houses.
Sey also said that Gambian Interior Minister Sulayman Masanneh Ceesay
visited the newspaper’s office today to assure employees that a thorough
investigation will be conducted. The editor also told CPJ that the inspector
general of police had contacted The Independent by phone to reiterate
Both attacks on The Independent closely resemble an August 2000
arson attack on the offices of the independent station Radio 1 FM that
injured several journalists and forced the station off the air for two
days. Sources at Radio 1 told CPJ that, almost four years later, there
has been no movement on the investigation into the incident.
AUGUST 7, 2004
Posted August 23, 2004
Demba Jawo, Gambia Press Union
An anonymous threatening letter dated August 7 was delivered to the home
of Demba Jawo, president of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), several days
before an arson attack on the home of Gambian journalist and BBC correspondent
Ebrima Sillah. Sillah was able to escape from the fire unharmed, but the
attack caused extensive damage to the journalist's house.
The letter criticized Jawo and the independent press in Gambia for their
coverage of Gambian politics, accusing Jawo and other journalists of being
biased against President Yahya Jammeh. "Very soon we will teach one of
your journalists a very good lesson," the letter threatened. It was signed,
"In defence [sic] of the revolution," an apparent reference to the coupreferred
to in the Gambia as a "revolution"that brought Jammeh to power in
Sillah's coverage for the BBC of the coup's ten-year anniversary was criticized
in a separate threatening letter, sent in July to the BBC in London and
signed "The Green Boys." The letter accused Sillah's reporting of being
biased against Jammeh, and threatened an attack on the journalist.
AUGUST 15, 2004
Updated: August 20, 2004
Ebrima Sillah, BBC
Sillah's home outside the capital, Banjul, was the target an arson attack.
About 3 a.m., attackers broke through the windows of his house, poured
gasoline, and set fire to the building, causing extensive damage.
Sillah was inside sleeping when the attack took place, but he was able
to escape without injury. No one else was inside the house at the time.
Sillah told CPJ that neighbors helped extinguish the blaze, which burned
for more than two hours.
Several days before the attack, Demba Jawo, president of the Gambia Press
Union (GPU), received an anonymous threatening letter at his home. The
letter criticized Jawo and the independent press in Gambia for their coverage
of President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh and the ruling Alliance for Patriotic
Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party. "Very soon we will teach
one of your journalists a very good lesson," the letter threatened.
In July, the BBC in London received a letter signed "The Green Boys,"
which criticized Sillah's coverage for the BBC of the 10-year anniversary
of the July 22 coup that brought Jammeh to power in 1994. The letter accused
Sillah's reporting of being biased against Jammeh, and threatened an attack
on the journalist.
Sillah told CPJ that he gave a copy of the letter to the local police,
who promised to investigate its source. Police did not announce any information
from that investigation. On August 19, a police spokesman said the police
would arrest those responsible for the attack.
This attack was the latest in a series of arson assaults on independent
media in the Gambia. They include two attacks against the private biweekly
newspaper, The Independent.
DECEMBER 16, 2004
Updated: March 24, 2005
Deyda Hydara, The Point
Hydara, managing editor and co-owner of the independent newspaper The Point, as well as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reporters without Borders (RSF), was shot in the head and chest by unidentified assailants while he drove home from his office in the capital, Banjul, late that night. Two other staff members of The Point, Ida Jagne-Joof and Nyang Jobe, were in the car with Hydara and were wounded in the attack.
The shooting occurred two days after the Gambian National Assembly passed two contentious pieces of media legislation that Hydara, along with other local independent journalists, had strongly opposed. One of the new laws imposes lengthy jail terms for reporters convicted of defamation or sedition. Both laws await President Yahya Jammeh's signature.
Hydara also wrote two columns for The Point that frequently criticized the government, according to local journalists.
In recent years, Gambian journalists and media outlets have been targeted in successive arson attacks, for which no one has been prosecuted. The most recent attack occurred in August, when the home of BBC correspondent Ebrima Sillah was burned down following a threatening letter sent to the BBC accusing Sillah's reporting of being biased against President Jammeh.
In the last two years, unidentified assailants have twice set fire to property belonging to the private, Banjul-based Independent, which is known for its critical stance toward the government. These attacks resembled an August 2000 arson attack on the offices of the independent Banjul-based station Radio 1 FM.
DECEMBER 30, 2004
Sam Obi, Radio France Internationale (RFI)
Police detained Obi, a local correspondent for RFI, for several hours after RFI aired his report on a march organized by the Gambia Press Union to protest the December 16 murder of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara. According to local sources, the police questioned him about the report and then confiscated the tape on which it was recorded.
The police also seized Obi’s residence permits (the journalist is a Nigerian national) and passport. They were returned the following day.
Hydara, managing editor and co-owner of the independent newspaper The Point, as well as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Reporters without Borders, was shot in the head and chest by unidentified assailants. The assassination occurred two days after the Gambian National Assembly passed two contentious pieces of media legislation that Hydara, along with other local independent journalists, had strongly opposed.