Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Rights group ARTICLE 19 Tuesday expressed serious concern over the crackdown on protesters and journalists in The Gambia and called for an immediate investigation into the excessive use of force during a protest march on 26 January.
In a statement made available to PANA here to Tuesday, the group said the closure of two radio stations, arrest of journalists, banning of the Three Years Jotna Movement and crackdown on protesters was a chilling reminder of 22 years of repression in The Gambia.
Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa, said: “We call on the President to order an independent investigation into these worrying events, to both determine how this happened and to prevent any future crackdown on protesters and the media.
“The authorities must immediately release all journalists, re-open the radio stations and reassure the media that it can do its work independently. In addition, they should release all protesters who are solely detained for exercising their right to protest. The security forces have a duty to protect journalists and protesters. ”
“The government should also lift the ban on the “Three Years Jotna Movement”, in line with the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of association and expression.”
On Sunday 26 January, the “Three Years Jotna Movement” (Three Years Enough in local language Wolof) organized a peaceful protest in the streets of Banjul against President Adama Barrow’s decision to remain in office for the constitutionally prescribed five year term, despite his pledge in 2017 to step down after three years and hold elections.
The march, which was initially authorised but later banned, ended when security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters and in response, some protesters threw stones at the security forces.
The armed forces were reportedly deployed to crack down on the protesters. Dozens of people including journalists were injured.
According to media sources, three persons were killed, claims the authorities denied.
According to a government statement, 137 persons were arrested, including the leaders of the “Three Years Jotna Movement”, and the movement was banned.
Senghore added: “People have the right to protest and express their opinion freely, without the risk of arrest. It is shocking that the security forces chose to use force without any apparent reason. This has only increased the tensions and may result in further human rights violations.”
The government also suspended two radio stations, Brikama-based Home Digital FM and Tallinding Kunjang-based King FM radio station, and arrested four journalists, including the Manager of Home Digital FM, Pa Modou Bojang, and the Manager of King FM Gibbi Jallow. The police are reportedly investigating allegations of incitement to violence and fear
.-0- PANA MSS/RA 28Jan2020