Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency detained Momodou Sabally, director-general of Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), and Bakary Fatty, an agriculture reporter with the state broadcaster, on November 8, 2016, according to media reports. Sabally was fired from his government-appointed role as director-general at the station the same day, reports said.
Two Gambian journalists in exile and a third in Gambia, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said authorities did not give any reason for Sabally and Fatty’s detention within the stated time under Gambian law. The Gambian constitution requires that anyone arrested or detained be brought before a court within 72 hours.
Sabally was arraigned in court November 29, 2016, on charges related to alleged misconduct during his time as minister of presidential affairs. The charges read out in court–including abuse of office, negligence, and giving false information to President Yahya Jammeh–were the same as those in relation to which Sabally was detained for several months in 2014, according to media reports. Authorities dropped charges in that case in 2015, news reports said. In the hearing on November 29, Sabally told the court he would not enter a plea because the charges had been withdrawn. The case was adjourned.
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 December 1. An unnamed person cited in an article by the Fatu Network said Sabally was fired 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 to contact the inspector general of police. Calls to the publicly listed phone number for that office did not connect.