Gambia UPDATE: Convicted journalist to appeal against sentence

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lawyers of Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist convicted of “publishing with seditious intentions” will appeal against the outrageous sentence handed by a court in Banjul presided over by Buba Jawo.

The Kanifing Magistrate Court on August 18, 2008 found Manneh, former reporter of the (now) pro-government Daily Observer newspaper, guilty on all four counts of “acting with seditious intention", "publication of seditious words" and "publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the Gambian public".  She was fined an amount of   250, 0000 Gambia Dalasis (approximately US$11, 905) or in default serve four years in prison.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that the Gambian Press Union (GPU) and other Gambians immediately after the sentence paid the fine to avoid Manneh being sent to prison again.

Fatou was arrested and arbitrarily detained for one week upon her arrival in the Gambia in 2007, following an interview she granted in June 2004 to The Independent, a banned Banjul-based newspaper. The interview which was highly critical of President Jammeh was subsequently published on several   online Gambian newspapers, including ( ). The case dragged on for months, with several adjournments. Throughout the proceedings, Manneh remained stranded in the Gambia, unable to return to her workplace in the US since her travel documents were confiscated by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The MFWA is concerned about the increasing use of high-handed laws to criminalise speech and expression in the Gambia. Over a year ago, Lamin Fatty, a reporter for The Independent was convicted by the same court for “publishing false information”.

We are calling on the government of Yahya Jammeh to respect the universally subscribed rights of all persons to the fundamental freedoms of speech and expression, and to repeal all speech related repressive laws in the country. The MFWA requests you to protest the deteriorating state of media freedom in the Gambia.

Media Foundation for West Africa