News / Africa

Fallout of Gambia's Media Repression Far-Reaching

A group of 50 people hold a banner reading A group of 50 people hold a banner reading "Shed light on the death of Deyda Hydara. Stop assassinations and violence against journalists and the press," during a protest in front of Gambia's high commission, 22 December 2004 in Dakar.
x
A group of 50 people hold a banner reading
A group of 50 people hold a banner reading "Shed light on the death of Deyda Hydara. Stop assassinations and violence against journalists and the press," during a protest in front of Gambia's high commission, 22 December 2004 in Dakar.
Nancy Palus
DAKAR — A journalists' group says the small West African country of Gambia ranks 13th worst in the world for the number of journalists who have fled into exile.  Journalists and press freedom experts say this flight of professionals who would keep a critical eye on government puts all citizens in danger.

It is six years this week since the disappearance of Gambian journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh.  Then, as now, it was common for journalists in the West African country of some 1.7 million people to be harassed, arrested, or worse.  Just in the past two weeks at least two journalists in Gambia were arrested over their coverage of court proceedings.
 
When practicing journalism becomes life-threatening, many are forced to flee - like Dakar-based Ebrima Sillah, who was working as a journalist in Gambia when he narrowly escaped an arson attack on his home in 2004.  Another journalist, Buya Jammeh, went into hiding in June 2009, when he heard the authorities were searching for him during a sweep of media arrests.  He eventually fled to Senegal and now lives in Dakar.
 
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a report this month saying 17 journalists have fled Gambia in the past decade, more than in any other West African country, though greater numbers of journalists have fled Rwanda, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Ethiopia.
 
Tom Rhodes is East Africa consultant with the Committee to Protect Journalists.  He says in some cases fewer reports of abuse against journalists might mean simply fewer journalists.

"You don't see that many reports [about abuses of the press] coming out these days about Rwanda, for example," said Rhodes.  "But that's because basically all the critical journalists from that country fled.  The same thing is now happening in Ethiopia; we have only one or two critical voices left within the country.  The rest are either state-sponsored or practice self-censorship."
 
Rhodes said in these conditions abusive governments go completely unchecked.
 
"So we're getting into a very dangerous atmosphere where we're going to basically allow these governments to totally censor the press, and we won't be criticizing [these governments] simply because the critical press is not there anymore," Rhodes added.

The Gambian journalists in Dakar say repression by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has a profound and lasting impact: it silences people.

"Civil society in The Gambia is a toothless bulldog," said Buya Jammeh, the journalist who fled to Senegal in 2009.  "The government, having instilled this fear in the citizenry, it has caused people to censor themselves [to avoid harassment or persecution].  Most of them are compromising their principles as civil society leaders and organizations."

Gambian journalist Ebrima Sillah said that civil society, even opposition leaders, measure their words so carefully for fear of imprisonment that the truth is rarely exposed.
 
Even if journalists were left to do their job properly, Sillah says, no one would talk, given the fear President Jammeh has instilled in the people.
 
Journalist Buya Jammeh collaborates with colleagues in and outside Gambia to cover the news there.  But he laments the flight of journalists from his home country.
 
"Unfortunately all those who are willing to do it the right way, without fear or favor, are the very people who end up being victims of harassment or persecution," Jammeh noted.  "The government doesn't want professional journalists who will do their job in the right manner."
 
The International Federation of Journalists continues to seek answers on the July 6, 2006 disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, as well as the circumstances behind the 2004 killing of Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara.
 
"The worst thing in this type of situation is to forget," said Gabriel Baglo who is the International Federation of Journalists' Dakar-based Africa director.  "We will not forget Chief Ebrima Manneh. Our campaign will continue until we achieve what we want to achieve, that is knowing exactly what happened to Chief Ebrima Manneh and to see light shed on the killing of Deyda Hydara."
 
Baglo said the federation has yet to get a response after it called on the authorities in both Gambia and the United States in early June to address reports that Chief Ebrima Manneh was in the United States.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs