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In Gambia, reporter still held after arrest at sedition hearing

A Gambian reporter arrested on Monday while covering a pre-trial hearing in the sedition case of seven journalists jailed last week, was still being held without charge late Tuesday, according to local journalists and news reports.

Augustine Kanjia of the daily, the Point, was being held at a police station in Serrekunda, Gambia's largest city, according to defence lawyer Assan Martin.

A plainclothes security agent whisked away the reporter on Monday after seizing his camera, Point Deputy News Editor Abba Jibba told CPJ. Kanjia was among dozens of journalists, including a camera crew from state-run Gambia Radio and Television Service, who had gathered outside a packed magistrate court in the Kanifing suburb of Serrekunda, according to local journalists.

"This arrest, in the wake of last week's imprisonment of seven senior Gambian journalists, highlights a long-standing pattern of criminalisation and intimidation of independent journalism," said CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator Tom Rhodes. "We call on authorities to release Augustine Kanjia immediately."

“The rampant violence against journalists in the Gambia in the past two weeks is a clear sign of intolerance and a brutal suppression of the media” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Africa Office. “There appears to be a systematic repression by the authorities to ensure that the private media in the Gambia is completely paralysed”.

Kanjia, a Sierra Leone native who fled during that country's civil war, joined the Point in 1994, according to Jibba.

The journalists charged with sedition had criticiaed President Yahya Jammeh for what they saw as insensitive comments about the unsolved 2004 murder of Point Editor Deyda Hydara.

Since 2001, at least 10 journalists have fled persecution and abuse in the Gambia, one of the world's worst backsliders on press freedom, according to CPJ research.

Date posted: June 24, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 336