- A Sierra Leonean journalist, Mohamed Oury Bah, was forced to flee The Gambia after he has had his share of persecution in the hands of the country's notoriously feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Bah - a freelance journalist and former reporter of the banned Banjul-based bi-weekly newspaper - 'The Independent' - fled The Gambia with his family on 20 January after he had suffered repeated physical attacks and threats against his life.
He was viciously attacked by three men on 17 October 2007 in Serekunda, The Gambia's biggest city.
"The men's fighting skills surpassed that of civilians, so I suspect them to be agents of the NIA," Bah, also a recognised refugee, told afrol News.
"The only crime that I committed - if there is any - was my failure to disclose my identity. I insisted that I needed to know why the men were interested to know my identity."
The men - who had left him powerless - kept referring to him "a stupid journalist who writes stupid things about The Gambia."
"They rained heavy blows on me and hauled insults throughout the fiasco," he said. They also blamed me for being responsible for his own problem "because you are in a no-go area."
Before going away with everything that I had, including money and press card, the men warned "you better stop writing and throw away your stupid pen."
"I was overcome with fear and had to rushed to the UNHCR officials in Banjul for protection. And after recounting my ordeal, I was advised to leave for Senegal because "we cannot guarantee your security. It was then I fled with my family."
Bah was among a group of journalists arrested and briefly detained by Gambian police soon after the illegal closure of 'The Independent' on 28 March 2006.
On 3 June 2006, he was arrested, detained and tortured for granted an interview with a Guinea's Democratic Newspaper about the deteriorating press freedom situation in The Gambia.
Security agents pounced on him as soon as he had arrived at the Gambian border village of Goboro before being escorted to the NIA headquarters in the capital Banjul.
"Around 2 am, state agents interrupted my sleep and led me to an isolated building where masked men had been waiting to torture me."
He was asked to explain all the had written or said about The Gambia while in Conakry and Cassamance and forced to reveal his email address and pass word.
"We have warned you several times to stop popping your nose into our affairs, but you remained adamant," one of the agents reportedly told him. "The torture was so severe and painful that I lost one of my teeth."
Bah was released with a stern warning that "you'll be deported if you don't stop writing about our country."
Bah was previously a victim of arbitrary arrest, detention and torture in Sierra Leone soon after a military junta led by Johnny Paul Koroma dislodged the former government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah from power in 1997.
There has been systematic attacks on journalists and their institutions in The Gambia since 1994 after the overthrow of a democratically elected government by a military junta. Attacks have been in the form of frequent harassment, arbitrarily arrest and detention, arson attacks and deportation of foreign journalists.
Consequently, many Gambian journalists have fled into exile.
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