Jammeh, the Gambia Press Union’s secretary general yesterday, 9 July, 2019 told
the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), chaired by Dr.
Lamin J. Sise that the media and journalists were gagged during Ex-president
Yahya Jammeh’s government.
He catalogued 140 cases of arrest and detention of journalists in the Gambia between July 1994 and December 2016, citing that there was massive intimidation, harassment and torture of journalists, disappearance and killings and arson attacks on media houses.
Mr. Jammeh cited the criminal defamation, false publication clause inserted in the Criminal Code as obnoxious laws promulgated by Jammeh to stifle the press.
He also stated that the Newspaper and Broadcasting Act and Decree 70 and 71, increased the bond to muscle the press and noted that online journalism was criminalised during Jammeh’s era.
He advised people to see and take journalists as people’s representative, noting that an attack on journalist is an attack on the society.
Saikou Jammeh started his testimony with the arson attack on Radio One FM Station owned by Goerge Christensen in 2001. He revealed that the matter was never investigated by the authority and the popular DJ Alieu Bah went into exile after receiving a letter threatening his life.
The GPU secretary general told the Commission that the Independent Newspaper was also attacked in 2004 and during the attack, a pistol belonging to one of the assailant was abandoned there.
He further told the Commission that arson attack was targeted at Ebrima Sillah, current minister of Information and a letter purported from the Green Boys was left in Ebrima Sillah’s residence warning him to desist from criticizing Ex-president Jammeh.
Saikou Jammeh revealed that about 15 media houses were arbitrarily closed during Jammeh’s era, citing Sud FM Station, Citizen FM Station and Terranga FM Station amongst others.
He mentioned the closure of the Independent, Standard Newspaper, the arrest and deportation of the founder and managing editor of the Daily Observer Newspaper, Keneth Best, Chikeluba Kenechuwku, Mohammed Mboyo, Mohammed Seade Ellicot, Sule Musa, Kemo Ceesay, Brima Ernest from October, 1994 to September, 1995 by the Jammeh regime.
Mr. Jammeh told the Commission that some journalists were arrested and some went into exile whilst the likes of Chief Ebrima Manneh disappeared and Deyda Hydara and Omar Barrow were killed.
The GPU SG stated that 12 days after AFPRC took power, Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta were arrested, arraigned before the court and subsequently convicted but had their sentences suspended.
He mentioned the arrest of Ebrima G. Sankareh, Abdoulie Savage, Babucarr Sakanu and the Gambia National Printing Cooperation was banned from printing private newspapers.
Mr. Jammeh further told the Commission that on 6 May, 1996, Bruce Asemota and Alieu Badara Sowe were arrested and detained for running an article on The Gambia Police Force.
He said on 13 June, 1996, Ansumana Badjie, a reporter for The Point Newspaper was arrested in Soma, adding that Alhagie Yorro Jallow and Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, present executive director of the TRRC were arrested in August 1999.
He revealed that Baba Galleh Jallow, Yorro Jallow proprietors of the Independent Newspaper and Deyda Hydara and Pap Saine, proprietors of The Point Newspaper were victimised when their citizenship was questioned.
He said Salieu Mbowe, Omar Bah, Pa Modou Bojang, Alkinking Sanyang, Lamin Dibba, Alieu Badara Mansaray and Alhagie M’bai were arrested. He explained that Alhagie M’bai was arrested for suggesting that he was going to report an article critical of Baba Jobe.
He said on 23 October, 2001, George Christensen, proprietor of Radio One FM Station was arrested, his radio station was burnt and he was questioned who sponsors his radio station.
Mr. Janmmeh told the Commission that in March 2003, Pa Nderry M’bai was arrested and released the same day, adding that Lamin Njie of the Independent Newspaper, Sam Obi, Momodou Gassama and Pa Modou Secka were arrested
The witness further told the Commission that in October, 2005 after Deyda Hydara’s death, Pap Saine was invited by the NIA and warned to stop publishing ‘Good Morning Mr. President’ – a column that advises the president on current issues.
He said Musa Saidykhan was arrested after giving an interview to The Point Newspaper about his audience with Thabo Mbeki, then South African president in which he intimated Thabo Mbeki about the killing of some West African migrants and the death of Deyda Hydara.
Saikou disclosed that in June, 2009, journalists like Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi, Pap Saine, Ebrima Sawaneh,Pa Modou Faal and Sam Sarr were arrested and charged with sedition, convicted and sentenced to two years jail term, but later pardoned and asked to apologise to Ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
Saikou Jammeh further disclosed that Abdoulie John was arrested on 7 January, 2013 whilst Sainey Marenah and Musa Sheriff of the Voice Newspaper were arrested and Sana Camara who reports for the Standard Newspaper was arrested on 27 June, 2014.
The GPU Secretary General told the Commission that journalists like Mafugie Ceesay, Alhagie Manka, a photojournalist, Yunus Salieu of the Daily Observer were arrested for taking pictures on the nomination day of Ex-president Jammeh in December, 2016.