Senegal: Rights groups petition African Commission on Human Rights over detained Gambian journalist

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and 36 other freedom of expression organisations have petitioned the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to prevail on the Gambian President, Yahyah Jammeh, to release a journalist who has been in detention for seven months.

In a statement, obtained here by PANA, MFWA said Journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, Manager of Taranga FM in Banjul, The Gambia, was first arrested on 2 July, 2015, briefly released and re-arrested.

It pointed out that after a two-week detention in which Ceesay was held incommunicado with no access to his lawyer or family, he was brought before a Magistrates Court on 4 August, 2015, and charged with a single count of sedition.

The prosecution accused him of distributing photos of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.

''By this letter, we implore you to apply pressure on President Yahya Jammeh to ensure the release of journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay in consideration of his long period of detention and failing health, and to end the persistent crackdown on free expression,'' the petitioners said.

MFWA also quoted Abdoulie’s brother saying: ''It’s about time the world start acting or else we fear for the future of the family and the country’s most reputable media house Taranga FM.''

Meanwhile, according to the statement, on 18 November, while Ceesay's case was still ongoing at the Magistrates Court, the state pressed a fresh seven-count charge against the journalist.

''These charges were a mere duplication of the first charge at the magistrates court, except for that of 'publication of false news.' The initial single count charge was later dropped,'' MFWA noted.

The press freedom watchdog also revealed that Ceesay has suffered from torture and maltreatment and is in deteriorating health.

''Despite his ill-health and eligibility for bail under Gambian law, and the landmark ruling of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the High Court Judge has denied Ceesay clemency three times,'' the statement added.

The MFWA together with the 36 African and global freedom of expression organisations, on 2 March, 2016, urged the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to prevail on The Gambia to release Ceesay.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 4March2016

04 march 2016 15:49:51

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