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.