Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, manager of the independent radio station Taranga FM, was forced into a car in Banjul, the capital, on July 17, according to news reports and a relative of the journalist who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. Ceesay’s family member told CPJ the journalist was brought to his family’s home by a group of men he identified to relatives as National Intelligence Agency (NIA) agents. The group searched the house and took Ceesay with them when they left. They did not disclose what they were looking for, the relative said.
On August 5, Ceesay was charged with “seditious intention” and publishing false news for allegedly distributing pictures via his mobile phone that authorities said were intended to “raise discontent, hatred, or disaffection among the inhabitants of the Gambia,” according to news reports. The photos allegedly showed a gun being pointed at President Yahya Jammeh, the reports indicated.
Ceesay denied sending the photos and said they did not belong to him, news reports said.
Ceesay was detained just four days after he was held for almost two weeks by individuals suspected of being government agents, according to a family member and news reports. After he was freed, Ceesay said he had been subjected to abuse and moved among several undisclosed locations, according to news reports that cited him. He was detained again on July 17.
Ceesay’s station, Taranga FM, translates news from international media and local newspapers into local languages, according to CPJ research. The station has been arbitrarily shut down three times in under five years by authorities and the station staff members interrogated several times at the NIA in relation to their work, according to the Gambia Press Union. After a failed coup, Taranga FM was ordered off the air by Gambian authorities from January 1 to 4, 2015, after which it was allowed back on air, but ordered to play only music, news reports said.
CPJ’s calls and emails in late 2015 to the NIA were not answered.
The journalist was denied visits from his family until the day of his arraignment on August 5, 2015, a family member told CPJ. He was denied bail in a hearing on September 17, 2015, according to news reports.
Ceesay was facing the same charges in two courts-the Banjul Magistrates’ Court, the lower court in Gambia, and the High Court of Gambia-according to news reports and the relative who spoke to CPJ. In October 2015, the lower court withdrew the charges against Ceesay, saying that he should not face the same charges in two separate courts. Ceesay’s trial on the same charges was continuing in the higher court in late 2015.
Ceesay’s family was able to visit him regularly in Mile 2 prison in Banjul until a hearing on November 11, 2015, when prison authorities told them they would not be allowed to visit again, a relative of Ceesay’s told CPJ. The relative said that no reason was given for revoking prison visits, and that when they saw him, Ceesay was in good health.