Jan 8, 2015, 10:35 AM
Musa Sheriff, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Voice newspaper, and Sainey M.K. Marena, a freelance journalist, were Monday arrested by state security agents in connection with a story carried by the newspaper.
They were detained until yesterday when they were brought to court, arraigned, and charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public, which both denied.
Sainey M.K. Marena and Musa Sheriff were accused in count one that on 6 December 2013, in Banjul and diverse places, they conspired to publish in The Voice newspaper a story headlined: “19 Green Youths Join the opposition UDP” dated 6 December 2013, and thereby committed an offence.
In count two, the two journalists whilst employed as editor-in-chief and reporter respectively at The Voice newspaper made a publication with the headline: “19 Green Youths Join the opposition UDP” dated 6 December 2013, knowing or having reason to believe that the said publication was likely to cause fear to the public or disturb the public peace, and thereby committed an offence.
In applying for bail on behalf of the journalists, defence counsel L.S. Camara told the court that the offence the accused persons were charged with is a misdemeanor not a felony, and urged the court to grant them bail.
Both accused persons were in police custody for a few days without police bail, he said, noting that the police prosecutor told the court that the investigation was completed, and there was a substantial charge before the court.
“Bail is at the discretion of the court, and this is a bailable offence”, counsel said, and urged the court to grant his clients bail.
In response, the prosecuting officer, Corporal Njie, told the court that the prosecution was objecting to bail for the accused persons.
He said in most cases, journalist standing trial in cases of such nature normally abscond from the jurisdiction, if granted bail, citing the case of Fatou Camara versus State who, he said, had absconded.
“If the accused persons are granted bail they may interfere with our witnesses, and secondly they pose a flight risk”, the prosecutor submitted.
Delivering his ruling, the trial magistrate told the court that the alleged offence committed was a bailable offence.
Consequently, the accused persons were granted bail of D20,000 each with one Gambian surety, who mustdeposit his or her national identification card.
The case was adjourned to 21 January 2014, for hearing to commence.