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Gambian Government Sued Again for Abuse of Journalists' Rights

  • James Butty

Kwame Karikari of the Media Foundation of West Africa says the lawsuits would expose The Gambian government's dismal human rights record

The Media Foundation for West Africa has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Gambian journalist against President Yahya Jammeh for alleged torture.

The suit, filed with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) community court in Abuja, Nigeria, is asking for two-million dollars in damages for illegal detention, trial and torture of now-exiled journalist Musa Saidykhan.

The Gambia map

The Gambia map

Saidykhan, a former editor of The Independent newspaper, was detained by the Gambian government after he published names of people arrested following the March 2006 aborted coup.

“In any case, the amount of money in such a suit is not really as commensurate with the act of torture. We say that it is more symbolic in the sense that if the court finds the Gambian government guilty, then it’s a case that is once again exposing the Gambian government’s repression of its own citizens and, particularly, as this case symbolizes, freedom of expression and rights of journalists,” he said.

The Gambian government, under President Jammeh, has come under criticism in recent years for the abuse of the rights of journalists.

Saidykhan, a former editor of The Independent newspaper, was detained by the Gambian government after he published names of people arrested following the March 2006 aborted coup.

Another journalist, Deyda Hydara, editor of the Point newspaper, was killed in 2004 by unidentified gunmen.

Karikari said the latest case is not the only lawsuit that the media foundation had filed with the ECOWAS court against the Gambian government.

“We first sued the Gambian government to the same court about three years ago, and the court found the government guilty of illegally arresting and detaining another Gambian journalist, who has since then disappeared. Of course, the Gambian government was found guilty and the court demanded the Gambian government to first release the journalist, whose name was Chief Ebrima Manneh, and then pay him a compensation of $100,000,” he said.

Karikari said, unlike the first lawsuit when the Gambian government refused to appear before the ECOWAS court in the case of Saidykhan, he said the government has been sending its lawyers to represent it.

“For whatever reason, maybe on second thought, the Gambian government has been appearing diligently represented by its attorney general. So, we are reading this to mean that the Gambian government has come to its own senses that if it keeps defying this court, then it bridges the spirit of the ECOWAS protocol and the Gambian government’s own membership of that the body,” he said.

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