Senegal: CPJ denounces Gambian authorities for denying entry to seven journalists

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has denounced Gambian authorities for denying entry to seven international journalists into the West African country.

In a statement, the press freedom watchdog revealed that the journalists who were on a mission to report on the Gambia were thrown out shortly after their arrival at the Banjul International Airport on 16 January.

''The Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the obstruction as a deliberate attempt to silence the press during a period of political unrest,'' the statement noted.

"The legitimacy of the Gambian government strongly depends on the press being allowed to report on the country's political transition," remarked Peter Nkanga, CPJ's West Africa representative. "We call on authorities to allow all journalists to freely cover events in Gambia."

According to CPJ, immigration officers denied entry to four journalists from the Chinese CGTN television station, based in Nairobi, Kenya; two Swedes from the photo agency Kontinent; and a Senegalese photographer from Agence France-Presse, who had all flown in from Dakar.

Officials were said to have questioned the journalists, who had stated their profession on a form when they arrived, before sending them back to Senegal three hours later on the grounds that they did not have accreditation.

"They said we didn't have our accreditation although we had applied for one before travelling to the country. We were told to come and pay in person," one of the journalists was quoted as saying.

CPJ revealed that since the election, Gambia has expelled at least five other journalists as security forces took two Al-Jazeera staffers, Mauritania bureau chief Zeinebou Mint Erebih and cameraman Mohamed Ould Beidar, from their hotel in the capital, Banjul, and detained them overnight before deporting them on 12 December.

Al-Jazeera was said to have been refused accreditation to cover the presidential elections.

Meanwhile, it pointed out that on 10 January , authorities in Banjul detained three Senegalese journalists covering a Supreme Court hearing for Jammeh's election petition, and expelled them from the country for allegedly lacking accreditation.

CPJ said earlier in the month, it had documented how three radio stations were ordered to cease broadcasting on 1 January and officials ordered a fourth station, Paradise FM, to be shut down for a few hours on 8 January, without giving an official explanation.

Meanwhile, Gambia's new president Adama Barrow took the oath of office in the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday.

Guinean president Alpha Conde is expected for talks in Banjul on Friday to convince Jammeh to leave office or face being forced out by a West Africa force, which has the approval of the United Nations Security Council.

Jammeh conceded defeat in the 1 December, 2016, election to Barrow but changed his mind a week later, citing "irregularities".  He subsequently filed a petition at the Supreme Court which may not hear it before May, as it does not have enough judges.

ECOWAS troops, led by Senegal, have entered the Gambia without much resistance from the Gambian army and are poised to remove Jammeh from power by force if he fails to step aside by noon on 20 January.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 20Jan2017

20 january 2017 13:35:52

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