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GPU calls on state to drop charges against journalists

Sep 25, 2012, 9:59 AM

The Gambia Press Union has called on the Gambian authorities to drop the charges against Babucarr Ceesay, first vice president of the Union and his colleague, Abubacarr Saidykhan, a freelance journalist, who were arrested on Thursday 6 September 2012 and released on bail on Monday 10 September 2012, after they had been charged with incitement of violence and conspiracy to commit a felony.

“The Gambia Press Union wishes to bring to the attention of the authorities that the right to peaceful demonstration is enshrined under Section 25 sub-section 1 (d) of the Second Republican Constitution and it states, “Every person shall have the right to freedom to assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms,” a statement issued by the Union on Monday stated.

Furthermore, the statement added, “we wish to state that the right to free expression is an inviolable right enshrined under 25 sub-section 1 (a) of the Second Republican Constitution, which states, “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media”.

According to the Union, it is its view that the duo have not acted outside the limits of the Constitutional provisions cited earlier, nor have they flouted the Public Order Act as well.

It further stated that it is “our view that by applying for a permit to hold a peaceful demonstration, they do not only want to express their views, but that they want to do it within the confines of the law.”

“The office of the Inspector General of Police is mandated by law to use its discretion in granting or disapproving an application for a permit. If in the case of the duo, the Police feel that based on genuine reasons; they cannot grant their application for a permit, then they are at liberty to turn it down,” the Union added.

However, it went on, if the Police proceed to arrest and proffer charges against the duo for merely applying for a permit to allow them to express their views within the confines of the law, it means the action of the duo is being criminalized and this would be at variance with the principles of democracy.

“The Police Force is made up of honourable men and women, and as such they should continue rendering good services to humanity,” it said, adding that it is in the interest of national reconciliation, human rights, democracy and the rule of law that the Police drop the charges against the duo.

“The State has nothing to lose by dropping the charges against the duo, whereas charging the duo to court would give the impression that The Gambia which is known as ‘the Smiling Coast’ brooks no dissent,” the statement added.