Thursday, August 6, 2009

By Richard Amosah & Bismarck Tetteh

Nana Oye Lithur, Coordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), has described president Jammeh’s reign as dreadful and a regime of human rights repression.
She noted this at a forum organised by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), in collaboration with Amnesty International at the International Press Center last Wednesday.
It was on the theme: “The Gambia- A Burial Place for Human Rights”
Highlighting on the topic, she said Gambian President Yahya Jammeh celebrates his 15 years of toppling the administration of former president Dawda Jawara as “Freedom Day” which ironically, is a day that marked the Gambian descent into tyranny.
She emphasized that the Gambian government was responsible for the killing of 44 Ghanaians who were traveling to Europe through Gambia in August 2006; allegations which have been denied by the Gambia president Yahya Jammeh.
She also stressed that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed by the government of Ghana and The Gambia could hold back investigations into the matter, expressing disgruntlement on the part of Ghana government for not releasing the reports of the ECOWAS Committee that was set up to investigate the killings. She said the report would help the CHRI to make assessments and declare its stand on the issue.
Mr. Suwaibou Touray a Gambian journalist and sub editor of a privately owned newspaper, ‘Foroyaa’ shared his experiences of violations of press freedom in Gambia saying that Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter of a government owned Daily Observer had been a victim of enforced disappearance since July 2006. He said the reporter was arrested by members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in connection with his trying to publish a BBC article which was critical of the Gambian government.
He also said Ebrima Manneh was seen for the first time 188 days after his arrest but the Gambian police continue to deny having arrest or detain him. “Manneh has spent about 350 days in detention or trial but the government still claims that it knows nothing about his whereabouts” he added.
Mohammed Shardow from the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said president Jammeh had not hidden its long-standing hatred for independent media, and that he had publicly described the media as elements of opposition. He said many radio stations and newspapers had been closed down under flimsy excuses, some of which are incitement to rebellion and propaganda.
Shardow noted that a growing number of journalists are fleeing the repression and persecution of the regime and more than thirty journalists had escaped into exile; those in the country are practicing self-censorship as a means of preventing arrests.
He also pointed out that Gambian authorities, including the courts have been demanding bizarre bail conditions for citizens and journalists saying that Halifa Sallah who is a publisher of Banjul- based newspaper was asked by the court to post a bail bond of about US$50,000, three sureties resident in Brikama district, two of whom must be a retired Inspector’s General of Police (IG) and an army Brigadier and ensure the third surety is a District Chief.
“There is no retired IG in Gambia. They were sacked whiles in office so how done get a retired IG” he added.
Ugonna Duru, Legal Officer, MFWA said when they were entering the Gambia, they were stopped by the immigration, their passports ceased and interrogated for about an hour before they were released.
She said there is insecurity in Gambia and it poses a threat to the West African sub region.
She also called on the international community and journalists join the campaign to bring an end to the Rule of Fear in Gambia.


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I am a Creative Arts Writer who is also into Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Photography and IT consultancy. I am also Social media enthusiast and an alumni of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).


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