- A former reporter of The Gambia's pro-government 'Daily Observer', Malick Mbook, has at last been allowed to go scot-free. Mr Mboob, who had been illegally detained for 139 days in the cells of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul, was allowed to home after the High Court in Banjul unconditionally released him.
The release followed a suit filed by Mr Mboob's counsel, Edward Gomez, seeking his unconditional release. Until his arrest and detention, Mr Mboob had been the communications officer of The Gambia's biggest referral hospital, Royal Victoria Hospital in the capital Banjul. Nor sooner was he arrested than the government stripped him from his post.
He was among five journalists that were arrested by the National Intelligence Agency on 26 May for allegedly sending "damaging information" to a US-based online newspaper - 'Freedom Newspaper. He was held incommunicado.
Mr Malick's troubles began when the website of 'Freedom Newspape'r was hacked into. The hackers - who were believed to be government agents - obtained the list of subscribers and contributors of what the Gambian government referred to as the "hate site". The list was published on the 'Daily Observer' few days later. Consequently, the police arrested those whose names appeared on the list. But some took to their heels to neighbouring Senegal for fear of being persecuted.
It was reported that Mr Malick was troubled by an e-mail he had sent to the editor of 'Freedom Newspaper', correcting a story the paper ran concerning the health of President Yahya Jammeh's mother.
Media rights groups abhorred incessant harassment, arrests and physical attacks on media in The Gambia and described it as a regrettable manifestation of deliberate intolerance of alternative views by the government. "The current spate of arrests represents an attack on media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights generally," said Chief Executive of Media Foundation for West Africa , Professor Kwame Kari Kari.
"We condemn in no uncertain terms the repressive attitude of the government of President Yahya Jammeh and demand unfettered freedom of speech and respect for the rule of law," he said.
Since President Yahya Jammeh came to power through a military coup in 1994, freedom of press and expression in The Gambia has been going from bad to worse. Since then, attacks on journalists have become frequent in a country that hosts the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. During the period, journalists have been killed, tortured, arbitrarily arrested and detained. In some cases, media institutions have been closed down without court order and fire was used to tame critical voices.
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