News

    Gambian, Senegalese Journalists Describe Fear, Increasing Dangers

    Multimedia

    Audio

    After recent attacks on newspaper offices in Senegal and ongoing detentions of journalists in Gambia, international attention is yet again being focused on the state of journalism in West Africa. Journalists in Gambia describe their daily fear of revenge and warn of a loss of media freedom in the region.  Ricci Shryock has more from our regional bureau in Dakar.

    The photos he chose to run in the newspaper were innocent thought Abdulhamid Adiamoh, the managing editor of Today, a daily newspaper in Gambia.

    "We ran a story captioned, children pick scrap metal-children dodge school to pick scrap metal, you know, in which we thought we were drawing attention to an issue to show some concern," said Abdulhamid Adiamoh.

    But the day after the story ran, police called Adiamoh's office and told him to report to one of the local stations.

    "To me, it was a very simple story," said Adiamoh. "It was innocent. We were not making any judgment nor assumption. But unfortunately police thought it was kind of embarrassing to the state, so that was actually what caused the trouble."

    Since the story ran, Adiamoh says he has been told to report to the police station at least every other day. He is not alone. This week, as he was making his usual check-ins with authorities, another Gambian journalist, Fatou Jaw Manneh, was sentenced to either four years in jail or an almost $12,000 fine.

    She wrote an opinion piece in 2005 that criticized Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and called him a bundle of terror. The government says she published false news that raises public alarm. During her trial, a prosecution witness told the judge that the contents of Manneh's article were false. Manneh's defense team called no witnesses. She was found guilty of sedition.

    Colleagues at The Gambian Press Union and family members of journalist Mannneh raised the money so she could avoid jail time.

    The president of The Gambian Press Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, says Manneh and Adiamoh's cases are examples of the ongoing intimidation of journalists in the region.

    "You can probably say some of them are in a state of fear, because the average journalist in The Gambia probably earns less than $100 a month, and for them to realize that if I commit a so-called offense, I will be fined up to $10,000, it kinds of puts some fear into people and obviously will effect the output of their work," she said.

    Sosseh says to push for more media freedom her organization is setting up a monitoring unit that will try to draw international attention to Gambian media struggles.

    The country has the attention of the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders. The organization's Africa Head, Leonard Vincent, says the Gambian justice system is cracking down on reporters.

    "We have been condemning what is going on in The Gambia with journalists for years now, and Fatou Jaw Manneh's case is just one more case of harassment and personal revenge of President Yahya Jammeh based on the police and the justice system of The Gambia, which is completely in his hands," he said.

    Earlier this month, United States Senator Richard Durbin addressed the U.S. Congress about the case of another Gambian journalist. Durbin called for the Gambian government to release Chief Ebrima Manneh.

    Manneh has been held incommunicado since July 2006. 

    Manneh was arrested at his office after he tried to re-publish a BBC article that questioned why the African Union was holding its summit in Gambia. In the report, the BBC pointed out the summit location went against the African Union's pledge to suspend governments that seize power.

    The Gambian government denies they have Manneh in custody.

    Vincent adds that because of this environment, his organization tracks many journalists who flee Gambia.

    "Every year we count dozens of arrests and also dozens of Gambian journalists fleeing the country and living in exile," said Vincent.

    Many Gambian journalists and other Gambians, who are also fleeing persecution but have fewer means, end up in Senegal.

    Senegal has long been considered to be better for journalists in the region, says Mohamed Keita, a New York-based African research associate for The Committee to Protect Journalists.

    But Keita warns the country is at risk of losing that status, due to recent tensions between the media and ruling government party.

    This week, he says, there were two attacks on newspaper offices in Dakar.

    "Independent newspapers were attacked by unidentified men, and the journalists reported seeing a vehicle with government license plates, so we are particularly disturbed and alarmed by these reports, which would suggest that these were government-sponsored attacks, raids, against newsrooms," said Keita. "And essentially the newspapers targeted are known for their critical coverage of the government."

    Three days before the attacks, Senegal's Air Transport Minister, Farba Senghor, threatened retaliation against four Senegalese newspapers. Although two of those newspapers were the same ones attacked, Senghor has denied any involvement in the raids.

    According to Keita, the fact that these acts often go unpunished means media outlets are taking matters into their own hands.

    "If the government itself is not interested in the protection of journalists," said Keita. "If top officials are out, threatening journalists, then it is left for journalists to really guarantee their own protection, and that's exactly what the editors of these newspapers and others have told us, that they will be hiring security to guarantee their own protection."

    Keita adds the situation in Senegal is getting worse for journalists.

    "Absolutely by all accounts it seems that the gloves are coming off," he said.

    There are problems in many other countries of the region, and many journalists in jail, including in Niger, where Radio France International reporter Moussa Kaka has spent most of the year behind bars, for what the government says is an accusation of treason with rebels, but he says was simply contacting  them for his reporting. 

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora