The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and 36 other freedom of expression organisations in Africa and across the globe have petitioned the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to prevail on Gambian President Yahyah Jammeh to release a journalist who has been in detention for seven months.
Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, Manager of Taranga FM in Banjul, was first arrested on July 2, 2015, briefly released and re-arrested. After a two-week detention in which Ceesay was held incommunicado with no access to a lawyer or his family, he was brought before a Magistrates Court on August 4, 2015 and charged with a single count of sedition. The prosecution accused him of distributing photos of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.
On 18 November, while the case was still ongoing at the Magistrates Court, the state pressed a fresh seven-count charge against the journalist. These charges were a mere duplication of the first charge at the Magistrates court, except for that of “publication of false news.” The initial single count charge was later dropped.
According to MFWA’s sources, Ceesay has suffered from torture and maltreatment and is in deteriorating health. Despite his ill-health and eligibility for bail under Gambian law, and the landmark ruling of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the High Court Judge has denied Ceesay clemency three times.
The MFWA together with the 36 African and global freedom of expression organisations, on March 2, 2016, urged the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to prevail on The Gambia to release Ceesay.
“By this letter, we implore you to apply pressure on President Yahya Jammeh to ensure the release of journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay in consideration of his long period of detention and failing health, and to end the persistent crackdown on free expression,” the petitioners said. “In the words of Abdoulie’s brother, “It’s about time the world start acting or else we fear for the future of the family and the country’s most reputable media house Taranga FM.”
A copy of the petition was also sent to the U.N Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye.
This article was first published by MFWA; http://www.mfwa.org/mfwa-36-others-petition-african-commission/
Organisations signed to the petition include;
- Media Foundation for West Africa
- Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
- Afghanistan Journalists Center
- Africa Freedom of Information Centre
- ARTICLE 19
- Association of Caribbean Media Workers
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
- Cartoonists Rights Network International
- Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
- Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia
- Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP
- Freedom Forum
- Free Media Movement
- Globe International Center
- Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
- Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
- International Federation of Journalists
- International Publishers Association
- Journalistes en Danger – Democratic Republic of Congo
- Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
- Media Institute of Southern Africa
- Media Rights Agenda
- National Union of Somali Journalists
- Pacific Islands News Association
- Pakistan Press Foundation
- Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
- PEN American Center
- Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique
- World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
- World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
- Convention de Jeunes Reporteurs de Sénégal (CJRS)- Senegal
- Gambia Press Union – The Gambia
- International Press Centre (IPC) – Nigeria
- Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) – Sierra Leone
- Regroupement de la Presse Mauritanienne (RPM)- Mauritania
- l’Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l’Homme (IM2DH) – Togo
- l’Observatoire de la Déontologie et de l’Ethique dans les Medias (ODEM) – Benin