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Criminal charges reinstated against former "Daily Observer" editor

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 25 February 2008, Mam Sait Ceesay, a former editor in chief of the "Daily Observer", a Banjul-based pro-government newspaper, was again arraigned before a Banjul Magistrate Court over charges of publishing false information.

The journalist's appearance in court followed a brief detention on 22 February at the Serious Crime Unit of The Gambia Police Force. He is being charged on two counts of publishing and broadcasting false information under Section 181 of the Criminal Code which in its amended form makes the publication of "false information" a criminal and punishable offence.

He faces a minimum of one year in jail with an option of a fine of not less than 50,000 dalasis (approx. US$1,850), or both, if convicted.

Ceesay, also a former press officer at the office of the President of The Gambia, is alleged to have allowed the publication of false information in the "Daily Observer" on 7 September 2007 in an article stating that Ebrima J.T Kujabi, President Yahya Jammeh's press secretary, had been replaced.

On 9 September 2007, Ceesay and Malick Jones, another journalist with the state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS), were held incommunicado for three days over the same story.

The two journalists were arraigned before the Banjul Magistrates' Court on 12 September 2007, and charged with "passing information to a foreign journalist, contrary to Section 4 of the Official Secret Acts of the Laws of The Gambia."

Even though the court granted them bail, later the same day, they were immediately re-arrested.

Both journalists managed to fulfill the bail conditions within a few weeks and were subsequently released. A magistrate court suspended the case on 26 September 2007, following a procedural error on the part of the prosecution.

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