Human rights organizations on Wednesday demanded the release of Gambian journalist Alagie Ceesay, director of the private radio Teranga FM, prosecuted for sedition and detained for nearly eight months, affecting his health.
Arrested and held incommunicado twice in July 2015 by the Gambian security services, he is being accused of sedition and publishing false news since August. He is also accused of having shared cell phone pictures circulating on the internet showing a gun in the direction of President Yahya Jammeh.
In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for the immediate release of the journalist, who was denied bail four times, and dropping of all charges against him.
Gambia: Free Ailing Journalist https://t.co/To14MXAzNM— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) March 9, 2016
His health has deteriorated since the beginning of the year, according to the text, which states that he was hospitalized in January for liver problems, and February 29 for an asthma attack before returning in prison on March 1.“Alagie Ceesay should never have been incarcerated. The deterioration of his health condition only underscores the urgent need to release him,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa Director at HRW, in the statement. “The Gambian laws use sedition and publication of false news as an instrument of censorship,” said Robert Mahoney, executive deputy director of CPJ.
According to Deputy Director of Amnesty International for West and Central Africa, Stephen Cockburn, “the case of Alagie Ceesay is just another example of the blatant disregard of press freedom in the Gambia”.
Teranga FM, founded in 2009, is popular in the country mainly because of its daily translation into national languages of the news published by the Gambian newspapers. This radio has been silenced at least three times in recent years, notably in January 2015, without explanation, while its director was arrested and questioned shortly after a failed coup against the presidential palace.Human rights organizations regularly denounce the violations of press freedom and expression in The Gambia, a West African Anglophone landlocked country in the territory of Senegal, apart from its Atlantic coast, led with an iron hand since 1994 by Yahya Jammeh.