Tyranny in The Gambia: Six journalists face prison sentence
Six Gambian journalists could go to jail if found guilty of six criminal charges of sedition” and “defamation” resulting from a publication on June 11, 2009 the Gambian Press Union (GPU) statement criticising President Yahya Jammeh over an interview he granted slandering slain journalist, Deyda Hydara.
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s sources reported that when the case was opened on July 31, the Gambia’s state prosecutor requested the Banjul High Court presided over by Justice Emmanuel Fangbenle to convict the journalists on all the six counts of criminal “defamation” and “sedition”.
Prior to this request, President Jammeh had characteristically threatened in an anniversary speech on July 22 that the accused journalists would not be spared but would be punished as the laws of the country require.
If found guilty, each of the accused journalists would pay a fine of a minimum of 50,000Dalasis (about US$ 1800) and maximum of 250,000 Dalasis (about US$ 9,000) and prison sentence from six months to two years for each count or both.
However, following a request by defence counsel Lamin Camara, the court adjourned the case to August 3, to enable him make his final submission.
On July 30, two prominent witnesses and newspaper managing editors, Pap Saine of The Point and Sam Sarr of Foroyaa , had testified before the court denying the criminal charges. The other accused had also done same on July 29. Abubacarr Saidykhan was arrested and also charged but was freed because the court found no case against him.