New York, US (PANA) - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has asked President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia to clarify his comments of 16 March which suggested that Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter for the Daily Observer in Banjul, the Gambian capital, may have died.
Manneh disappeared after witnesses saw him being arrested by state security agents in the offices of the Daily Observer on 7 July, 2007. The government has previously denied any knowledge of Manneh’s fate.
In a letter to Jammeh from its New York, US, base, the CPJ recalled that Jammeh had said at his meeting with representatives of Gambian media that was broadcast on state television, “Let me make it very clear that the government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh or Deyda Hydara or the disappearances of so many people.
"You also suggested that Manneh might have disappeared after attempting to illegally migrate to Europe or the US.
"Your statement implies knowledge of Manneh’s fate that has not been conveyed to the journalist’s family or disclosed publicly."
In all previous public comments, administration officials have consistently denied any knowledge of Manneh’s detention, whereabouts, or legal status.
Those comments were made despite sightings of Manneh in government custody after his 2007 arrest.
Government denials were also issued in response to a June 2008 ruling by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which found sufficient evidence to conclude that Gambian authorities had improperly detained Manneh.
The letter, signed by Joel Simon, the CPJ Executive Director, and dated 21 March, 2011, said: "In the interest of transparency and to relieve the anguish of Manneh's family, which deserves to know his fate, we call on you to fully disclose your knowledge of Manneh's fate and to order all appropriate investigations into his case.
"We look forward to your response," the letter added.
Copies of the letter were sent to Susan Wafa Ogoo, the Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the United Nations; Alieu Momodou Ngum, Ambassador of The Gambia to the United States; Roger Laloupo, Director of Legal Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission; Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Union Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; US Senator Richard J. Durbin; the Media Foundation of West Africa; the International Federation of Journalists; Amnesty International and Freedom Now.
-0- PANA PR/VAO 22March2011