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Journalist, previously detained for alleged espionage, now missing

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 22 October 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Persecution of Missing Gambian Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the persistent threats to the life of Yaya Dampha, a reporter with the Foroyaa newspaper in The Gambia, after him and two Amnesty International staff were arrested, detained and released for alleged "spying".

According to reliable sources from Banjul, plain clothes officers, believed to be agents of the National Intelligence Agency, (NIA), on Sunday, October 14, stormed Dampha's house in Latrikunda Sabiji, about 20 kilometres from the Capital Banjul. The officers questioned Dampha's wife about his whereabouts and were informed that he had actually gone to work at the Foroyaa office.

The police have returned on several occasions since then but Yaya Dampha is missing and believed to have gone into hiding.

"The IFJ deplores these acts of intimidation meted out to journalists in The Gambia by the state security agents" said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "Over the past few years there have been numerous arbitrary arrests and forced detentions of Gambian journalists, who continued to work under enormous pressure from the state."

Yaya Dampha was arrested earlier this month when he accompanied two Amnesty International workers who visited a police station in Saren Gai in the South of the country, some 365 km from Banjul on Saturday, October 6. There they found Councillor Ousman "Rambo" Jatta, a political detainee who had been held incommunicado for over a year. Yaya and the Amnesty staff were released two days later having been detained for alleged "spying".

The IFJ calls on the Gambia Government to support the work that journalists do in the country. "Journalists in the Gambia must be allowed to perform their duties without harassment and intimidation from the security agents as guaranteed by the Gambian Constitution," said Gabriel Baglo. "Freedom of Expression and of the Press in particular is an essential ingredient of any striving democracy. The undermining of these fundamental rights negates any proclamation of democratic gains in any country."

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

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