29 April 1998


Newspaper office raided; staff members detained

Incident details



(PEN/IFEX) - According to PEN American Center, on 26 April 1998, officials
from the Gambian Immigration Department, the National Intelligence Agency
and the police raided the news bureau of "The Daily Observer" newspaper
while it was in production. While the officials apparently came looking for
writers and editors who had already left for the day, they arrested seven
members of the newspaper's technical staff. Of the seven detained, 5 are
Gambians and 2 are Senegalese. They are currently being held without
charge. Colleagues have been allowed to visit the detainees and the director
of the Bakaw-based newspaper is trying to find ways to secure their release.

**This alert contains a new case and updates IFEX alerts of 20 April, 3
March and 9, 13 and 19 February 1998**

"The Daily Observer" is one of the two leading dailies in Gambia, with
circulation beyond Gambia to the West Africa region and Europe.

Background Information

This recent incident is believed to be a reaction to the paper's coverage of
the trial of Babucarr Gaye, the proprietor of Citizen F.M. Radio and "New
Citizen" newspaper. Gaye was charged, under a colonial law enacted some 85
years ago, with operating a radio station without a licence. Gaye's trial on
this charge began on 20 April 1998 at the Kanifing Magistrate Court. During
the proceedings, the Director of Public Prosecutions brought forward
evidence regarding the technical and financial requirements for obtaining a
radio operating licence. Gaye's answer to the charge, which was restated by
a prosecution witness, was that he was not issued a licence, but received a
letter granting him permission to start operating a radio station.

Gaye's trial continued on 21 April 1998, with testimony alleging that he had
not paid his licencing fees for 1997. However, a representative of the
credit control office of GAMTEL told the court that two other private radio
stations which were in arrears of their licence fees were merely sent
reminders. It appeared from the testimony that these two other stations are
still operating. The trial has been adjourned.

According to PEN American Center, it appears that Citizen F.M. is being
singled out for its attempt to provide Gambians with an independent
broadcast news as a counterbalance to the predominantly pro-government
coverage of the publicly-owned Radio Gambia. As brought forward at Gaye's
trial, other F.M. commercial stations which, like Citizen F.M., have not
paid their annual licensing fees, are not being targeted by the government
(for more information on this case see IFEX alerts noted above).


PEN American Center
588 Broadway, #303
New York, NY 10012
Fax:+1 212 334 2181
The Gambia

IFEX members working in this country 1

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