9 April 2009


Court drops some charges against "The Point" editor, he is still accused of falsifying citizenship documents

Incident details

Pap Saine


legal action
(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an abridged IPI press release:

Gambian Court Drops Some Charges Against 'Point' Editor

VIENNA, 9 April 2009 - A Gambian court's decision to dismiss charges of publishing false information against journalist Pap Saine was a positive step in reversing government efforts to intimidate the co-founder of a leading independent newspaper, the International Press Institute said today.

But the editor of The Point still faces separate proceedings in which he is accused of falsifying citizenship documents, despite testimony from a key government witness that his proof of being Gambian is authentic.

On 7 April, a court in the capital Banjul granted a prosecutor's request to drop charges of false publication in connection with a January report in The Point about a reshuffle of diplomatic staff at the Gambian Embassy in Washington. Saine returned to court one day later in connection with the citizenship charges despite the testimony of a health department official who certified Saine's claim to Gambian citizenship as genuine.

"Although I welcome the decision of the Gambian court to dismiss the charges, and I hope that the second set of charges will be dismissed in a similar fashion, I am concerned that the authorities are using the courts to silence journalists by forcing them to defend themselves in a raft of cases that are frivolous and without merit", IPI director David Dadge said.

"The result is an abuse of the legal system that forces journalists to expend precious energy, time and money in a string of cases that should never have been prosecuted in the first place".

IPI has urged the courts to dismiss charges against the editor, who also serves as a long-time correspondent for the Reuters news agency. IPI also sent a letter urging London's top diplomat in the former British colony, High Commissioner Phil Sinkinson, to express his government's concern to the Gambian government about the charges against Saine and other journalists.

Shortly after Saine was arrested on 2 February, police raided the newspaper's offices and detained its staff members, demanding that they reveal their sources. Saine was charged with publishing false news after refusing to disclose his sources about the shakeup at the West African nation's embassy in Washington. A short time later he was charged with obtaining a passport and a birth certificate by false pretences.

This is the second time in a month that the Gambian courts have dropped charges against a journalist. On 20 March, Halifa Sallah, publisher of the pro-opposition Foroyaa Newspaper and leading opposition politician, was released from jail, and the charges against him, which included sedition and spying, were dropped on 19 March.

For the full text of the press release, see: http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi/statements_detail.html?ctxid=CH0055&docid=CMS1239289147430&year=2009
Updates the Saine case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101232


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