A close associate of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has filed a lawsuit in a U.S court claiming the independent Freedom online newspaper recently published articles that tarnished his reputation.
Amadou Samba, a Gambian-based businessman, said allegations that he is under investigation for dealing in illicit drugs in the West African nation are unfounded and malicious.
“He [newspaper editor] has been defaming all the while, but I have been ignoring him. But, the last two articles, which I think he was not fair to me, is when he alleged [that] I was involved in a drug scandal, and that, two, I was involved in a coup [d’état] plot. It is my constitutional right to proceed because he is trying to defame me. I’m a businessman and it can send the wrong signal,” he said.
In a recent report, the newspaper said Samba and another businessman were under investigation in connection with a billion-dollar cocaine bust in The Gambia.
The drugs were allegedly found in a bunker, in Bonto village, on the outskirts of the capital, Banjul.
But, Samba denied ever dealing in drugs and challenged the newspaper to prove his guilt.
“He did it for the allegation sake. He has nothing to back it up. If he has anything to back it up, let him come up with it. It is as simple as that,” Samba said.
He also denied using the American judicial system to intimidate journalists, as well as the publisher of the online newspaper.
Samba also denied the newspaper’s allegation he was plotting to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh’s administration.
Meanwhile, Pa Nderry Mbai, publisher of the Freedom newspaper, said the lawsuit is aimed at crippling his online newspaper. He vowed not to be silenced by the Gambian government.
“We never defamed Amadou Samba. Our stories were reported in good faith without malice. Mr. Samba is a public figure and his life is of interest to the Gambian public, including the international community. Here is a guy who is very close to President Jammeh and, if it is alleged that he has been invited for questioning by the National Drug Enforcement Agency, our job is to investigate the story,” Mbai said.