Analysis

Press Freedom in Gambia Still Under Attack

17 March 2008 at 02:49 | 1602 views

By Scott A Morgan

One of the best sources of Gambian News that is available online has come under attack. That source, The Freedom newspaper which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the United States had its access to the country blocked by GAMTEL, the State Telecommunications Company. This action was taken in response to a story the paper carried about the company.

This action meant that the only source of information available to the Gambian people were those sponsered by the state. So effectively for a short period of time there was a news blackout from Gambia. This action shows that any efforts that are deemed necessary to crack down on the independent media are the rule, not the exception.

Since December 2004 when Deyda Hydara, the editor of The Point was murdered in cold blood by unknown assailants, press freedom in the Gambia has been on a short leash. In July of 2006 Chief Ebrima Manneh, another journalist, disappeared. Currently Fatou Jaw Manneh yet another Gambian journalist currently based in the United States was delayed again as the Magistrate failed to show up for the proceedings.

Ms. Manneh is currently facing charges of edition for an article she posted on www.allgambian.net. In the item she criticized President Jammeh and his Rule within Gambia. The case has been bouncing around the Gambian Court System for the last year. If she is found guilty of the charges she faces a seven year jail term.

These incidents are just the lowlights of what is currently occuring within the Gambia. Late last year two researchers from Amnesty International were arrested after leading classes on Journalism. Their driver was also detained as well. The members of the Human Rights Group were released after intervention from the embassies of the United States, Great Britain and Nigeria.

One of the basic tenets of a free society is a free and independent press. These acts of intimidation are indictiative of a government that has individuals in it that are drunk with power. They have even used Gambians living in the United States to threaten those internet journalists who dare to publish what the current government doesn’t want people to see.

The region itself is a potential powder keg. There are rebels from the Casamance region currently in Gambian jails facing treason charges as well. No one knows how this case will be adjudicated. There is a growing narcotics trade in Guinea-Bissau and there are new allegations that neighboring Senegal is conducting intelligence operations within Gambia as well.

For whatever reason Gambia is on the brink. Could it be its power hungry President and his desire to retain power? Could it be regional tensions rising up in the country? Or is it a combination of the two factors? Or something unseen? Whatever it is, the situation isn’t sexy enough like the crisis in Darfur. And it may catch some people by surprise.

Scott Morgan(photo) is editor of Confused Eagle and has provided comments for not only the Freedom newspaper and allgambian.net but also www.gambiaecho.com and www.senegambianews.com

Confused Eagle can be found at morganrights.tripod.com

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