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Journalist harassed by suspected intelligence agents, forced into hiding

(MFWA/IFEX) - Modou Lamin Jaiteh, Banjul correspondent for the Pan African News Agency (PANA), an African news wire service based in Senegal, and a former staff reporter of "The Point" newspaper, based in Banjul, has gone into hiding for fear of his life.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that persons suspected to be working with the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) have been harassing and accusing him of being associated with the MFWA.

Jaiteh is the latest in the growing number of Gambian journalists fleeing the repression that has characterised the 13-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh.

The sources said that Jaiteh's flight was prompted by several calls he received on 29 June 2007 from suspected NIA agents, including Dr. Sajal Taal, a close confidante of President Jammeh and managing director of the Banjul-based, pro-government "Daily Observer" newspaper. Dr. Taal is reported to have called Jaiteh to ascertain his relationship with the MFWA.

MFWA sources have consistently accused Dr. Taal of masterminding the arrests and dismissals of several journalists working at the "Daily Observer", including Chief Ebrima Manneh, who has been held incommunicado since July 2006 (see IFEX alerts of 20 June, 6 February and 18 January 2007, 18 October, 19 and 17 July 2006).

MFWA has been exposing the abuse of press freedom and human rights violations in the Gambia. It has filed a suit at the Community Court of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to demand the release of Chief Manneh as part of a campaign to end impunity against journalists in the country.

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