News / Africa

Fallout of Gambia's Media Repression Far-Reaching

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.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 "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.
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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid