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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid