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Former newspaper editor acquitted of criminal charges for publishing false information

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 19 May 2008, Mam Sait Ceesay, a former editor of the pro-government "Daily Observer" newspaper, who has been standing trial on two counts of publishing and broadcasting false information, was acquitted and discharged of the offences by the Banjul Magistrate court.

Meanwhile, Malick Jones, a principal prosecution witness who testified in Ceesay's trial, was arrested at his home in Serre Kunda, the second-largest city in The Gambia, and the police have yet to give reasons for his arrest.

According to the trial magistrate, Kayode H.Olajubutu, the prosecution woefully failed to establish a prima facie case against Ceesay.

On 9 September 2007, Ceesay and Jones - the latter a journalist with the state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) - were arrested and held incommunicado for three days over a story reporting that Ebrima J.T. Kujabi, President Yahya Jammeh's press secretary, had been replaced.

Ceesay, also a former press officer at the Office of the President, was alleged to have masterminded the publication. On 25 February 2008, he was arraigned and charged with the two counts.

In a separate development, on 20 May Judge Buba Jawo adjourned the case against Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based journalist who has been on trial for over a year, until June 23, in order to give the defence and prosecution time to make their final submissions. MFWA sources in The Gambia reported that the date was set after the defence counsel, Lamin Jobarteh, told the court that he did not find it fitting or appropriate for his client to testify.

Manneh, a former journalist with the "Daily Observer" newspaper, was arrested and detained for a week upon arrival in The Gambia on 28 March 2007, and her travel documents were confiscated by the authorities.

She was subsequently charged with three counts of sedition as a result of a series of articles she wrote criticising the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.

The case has been protracted, adjourned on a number of occasions, and been characterized by a general lack of seriousness in the manner in which it has been handled. Manneh has throughout the proceedings remained stranded in The Gambia, unable to return to her customary workplace in the US.

Updates the Ceesay case:

For further information on the Manneh case, see:

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