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IFJ fears detained journalist killed

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 26 September 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Fears Detained Journalist Killed in The Gambia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its fear that Chief Ebrima Manneh, who has been missing for more than a year and was reportedly being held incommunicado, has been killed in jail in The Gambia.

"This information is extremely devastating for the media community in The Gambia and journalists around the world," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "We call on the Gambian Police, the NIA and government to provide evidence that Chief Ebrima Manneh is alive as we firmly believe that they know his whereabouts."

Manneh, a reporter with the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper has been missing since 7 July 2006 and is said to be held by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which the agency has repeatedly denied. Manneh's detention is said to be related to information he has allegedly leaked to a foreign correspondent who wrote a feature article on the African Union summit held in Banjul that was critical of the regime.

In January, local sources and newspapers revealed that the journalist was moved from the NIA headquarter to the Mile Two Central Prison to police stations in Kartong (South of Banjul), Sibanor (in the West), Kuntaur (Central Gambia) and then to Fatoto (in the East).

Manneh was reportedly seen the last time on July 26 getting treatment at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital of Banjul.

A reliable source at the Mile Two Central Prison in the capital city Banjul told IFJ that in July Manneh was taken to his cell late one night shortly after he came from the hospital and the officers taking him said that Manneh "would not see the next day". Since that night the same source says he has not heard about Manneh and he is "convinced that he has been killed."

"We fear that a terrible crime has taken place and the government is trying to hide it," Baglo said. "We are supporting our colleagues' search for answers and justice in this case."

The IFJ is supporting the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) suit against the government of The Gambia at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, over Manneh's "disappearance."

Hearings in the case resume today.

According to IFJ records, Manneh would be the third journalist killed in The Gambia since President Yahya Jammeh came to power in July 1994. For the past 12 years journalists in The Gambia have been subjected to arson attacks, arbitrary arrests and detention without charge, harassment and intimidation by the security forces and torture.

On December 16, 2004, the editor and co-founder of The Point Newspaper, Deyda Hydara was shot and killed while driving his car, just a few meters away from a police depot.

On April 10, 2000, Omar Barrow, a journalist working with Sud FM radio station in The Gambia was shot and killed by Gambian security forces while covering a student demonstration.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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