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AFRICAN UMBRELLA GROUPS LAUNCH CAMPAIGNS FOR FREE EXPRESSION

"Chief" Ebrima Manneh has been missing since last July. A week after the Gambian newspaper reporter allegedly passed on "damaging" information at an African Union summit, he was arrested without charge and detained by the National Intelligence Agency. But the security force denies even arresting him. Manneh's release is a key demand in a new campaign launched last week by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organizations (NAFEO) to end impunity and the violent attacks on free expression in the country.

To publicise Manneh's case and other little known human rights violations in the country, MFWA and NAFEO have published a 63-page dossier of press freedom abuses since President Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994, which includes journalists who have been arrested, detained or forced into exile, as well as media houses attacked or closed down. Just recently on 18 May, Fabakarr Ceesay, a reporter with the pro-opposition biweekly newspaper "Foroyaa", was arrested, threatened with death and held briefly by police while covering a student demonstration in Serrekunda, Gambia's largest city.

The dossier and the wider campaign will target African leaders and local and international human rights organisations, UN human rights agencies, and governments that deal with the Gambia, to expose free expression violations and put pressure on Jammeh to free Manneh and respect media rights.

NAFEO and MFWA are also part of a larger initiative to create an African Treaty on free expression at a conference in Accra, Ghana in late June, just days before the African Union heads of state summit. NAFEO's members, including Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Journaliste en Danger (JED) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and other free expression organisations, like ARTICLE 19 and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, will attend the conference from 25 to 27 June.

For more information on the campaigns, email: [email protected]

(29 May 2007)

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