On November 8 Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency detained Bakary Fatty, an agriculture reporter with the state broadcaster Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), and Momodou Sabally, the station’s director-general, according to media reports. Gambian journalists told CPJ that as of late November 2016, no charges had been filed against Fatty.
Two Gambian journalists in exile and a third in Gambia, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said authorities had given no reason for Fatty’s detention as of late November 2016. The Gambian constitution requires that anyone arrested or detained be brought before a court within 72 hours. The journalists with whom CPJ spoke said that Fatty had not been given access to a lawyer.
Local activists told the advocacy organization Human Rights Watch they believe Sabally and Fatty were arrested because the state broadcaster aired footage of an opposition candidate’s nomination on November 7 instead of an agricultural event organized by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s wife held at the same time. The events came ahead of presidential elections scheduled for December 1. Sabally was fired from his role as director-general of the station the same day as the arrests, according to reports. An unnamed person cited in an article by the Fatu Network said Sabally was dismissed in relation to the coverage.
CPJ was unable to locate a number for GRTS to seek comment.
Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang told CPJ in late November he did not know the reason for the arrests, and suggested that CPJ contact the inspector general of police. Calls to the publicly listed number for that office did not connect.
Fatty was being treated for an asthma attack at the time of his arrest, according to media reports. He has been denied access to his family or a lawyer, reports said. A member of the Gambia Press Union, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, told CPJ Fatty does not have access to medical treatment.