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Three press union executives and four journalists detained by National Intelligence Agency

(MFWA/IFEX) - On the night of 15 June 2009, the notoriously feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of the Gambia arrested three newspaper journalists, bringing to seven the total number of journalists arrested on the same day.

The journalists are being detained in connection with a press statement issued on 12 June by the Gambian Press Union (GPU) that criticized President Yahya Jammeh over his comments on the slain journalist, Deyda Hydara.

MFWA sources reported that Sam Sarr and Abubacarr Saidykhan, managing editor and reporter respectively of the pro-opposition "Foroyaa" newspaper, and Ebrima Sawaneh, deputy managing editor of "The Point" newspaper, were reportedly picked up at different times and sent to the NIA headquarters.

The sources said Sarr was arrested at about 17:30 GMT in his home by plain-clothed NIA personnel driving a vehicle with registration No. BJL7176F. In the case of Saidykhan, he was arrested when he raised the alarm about Sarr's arrest.

Emil Touray, GPU general secretary, Mrs. Sarata Jabbi, GPU first vice president, Pa Modou Fall, GPU treasurer, and Pap Saine, editor of "The Point" newspaper, were invited to the NIA's headquarters around midday on 15 June.

Meanwhile, attempts by human rights lawyer Lamin Camara to get in touch with the detained journalists have proved futile as both the NIA and the police are not willing to talk to him.

Ndey Tapha Sosseh, the GPU president who was not at the premises of the GPU at the time the NIA stormed the offices, has issued another statement condemning the arrests and subsequent detention of the journalists. According to her, the NIA action contravenes Section 207 of the 1997 Gambian Constitution and various regional and international treaties.

"We firmly stand by our statements of Thursday, 11 June and are today, more than ever before determined to remain steadfast, courageous, and to speak the truth, only the truth and nothing but the truth", she added.


BACKGROUND:

On 15 June, the NIA began interrogating three executive members of the GPU and a newspaper editor over the 12 June GPU press release.

MFWA's sources reported that Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi, Pa Modou Faal, and Pap Saine were invited at about 15:00 hours GMT and were detained at the NIA's headquarters.

Saine was invited because his newspaper published the statement.

The sources said the NIA personnel had earlier stormed the GPU office in Banjul and inquired about the GPU President, Ndey Tapha Sosseh.

In a 12 June statement, the GPU condemned President Yahya Jammeh over statements he made about Deyda Hydara, slain editor of "The Point", who was murdered in 2004 by unknown assailants, immediately after his newspaper celebrated its 13th anniversary.

The statement also catalogued a number of human rights abuses that the regime has committed against Gambian journalists, including Chief Ebrima Manneh, reporter of the pro-government Banjul-based "Daily Observer" newspaper, who has been in detention since his arrest in July 2006.
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