News / Africa

Observers Get Mixed Signals on Gambian Press Freedom

Protesters gather outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal to demand President Yahya Jammeh halt the mass execution of prisoners, August 30, 2012.
Protesters gather outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal to demand President Yahya Jammeh halt the mass execution of prisoners, August 30, 2012.
Nancy Palus
Press freedom activists are condemning the shutdown of two private newspapers in Gambia, saying it confirms what they call President Yahya Jammeh's "ruthless opposition" to a free, independent press. Just days after the papers' closure Jammeh announced that he would allow an investigation into the death and disappearance of two prominent journalists. But observers are skeptical of the offer and say it's the newspaper crackdown that shows the Gambian leader's true colors.
 
At least on the surface, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has sent out mixed signals in recent days over press freedom.
 
Following a September 17 meeting with U.S. rights activist Jesse Jackson, Jammeh said he would allow the United Nations to investigate the 2004 death of journalist Deyda Hydara and the 2006 disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, according to a statement by the U.S. embassy in the capital, Banjul.
 
Days earlier, Gambian authorities arrested two journalists and summarily shut down their newspapers. Gambian press organizations and the Committee to Protect Journalists say the newspapers - The Standard and the Daily News - have extensively covered opposition to the government’s recent execution of nine death row inmates.  
 
Gambian journalists say the two papers are important sources of independent reporting in Gambia, where only a small percentage of the country's 1.7 million people regularly see the more vibrant press coverage available on the Internet.
 
The International Federation of Journalists, or IFJ, on Wednesday said the crackdown on the newspapers confirms Gambia’s “unfortunate reputation of media predator, totally resistant to media pluralism and liberties.”
 
A Gambian government press officer said he did not yet have any details about the papers’ closure.
 
IFJ, which has long called for light be shed on the cases of journalists Manneh and Hydara, is also urging the United Nations to take up President Jammeh’s offer to investigate.
 
"We consider the key is in the hands of the United Nations to help investigate these cases and provide credible information, considering its role with regard to respect for the freedom of the press and democracy," says Sadibou Marong, who is with IFJ’s Africa office in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
 
He said IFJ would like to see more concrete steps from President Jammeh, like making official notice to the United Nations of his intention to have an investigation.
 
But Jammeh probably does not intend to move forward, say Gambian journalists in exile in neighboring Senegal.
 
Journalist Ebrima Sillah says Jammeh’s talk of allowing a probe is just a ploy to buy time amid heightened pressure by the international community over human rights.
 
"Jammeh knows that now the pressure on him, even from within, is getting stronger and stronger," says Sillah. "People are now getting impatient and the regime, being good at this kind of propaganda, are now trying to come up with this cosmetic announcement to hoodwink the people and the international community.  But I believe that the international community should not fall prey to this propaganda, to this insult to people’s intelligence."

President Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, has long faced charges of human rights violations and abuses of press freedom.
 
Ebrima Sillah says recent developments in Gambia should have Gambians and the international community stepping up pressure on the leader.
 
"The pressure should be reinforced," says Sillah. "We should all speak with clear and unequivocal voice [to say] look, what is happening is unacceptable and the world is not going to stand by. If it happens in The Gambia and nothing comes of it, you have other mad dictators on the continent who will follow the same thing, which means we are setting a very bad precedent."
 
During the meeting with Jesse Jackson, President Jammeh also reaffirmed a moratorium on executions, put in place after international pressure when the government put nine inmates to death last month. And he released two Gambian-Americans held on accusations of treason.

The U.S. embassy says Jackson was there as a private citizen and guest of the Gambian government to discuss human rights in the country.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Freedom
September 21, 2012 11:10 AM
What about Zimbabwe,now that a really serious human rights issue, which is always "side stepped" by so many Governments and the UN, mmm moving on mmm

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs