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Former "Daily Observer" manager dismissed, imprisoned despite court's initial dismissal of sedition charges

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 23 June 2008, a Banjul Magistrate court presided over by Buba Jawo dismissed a case of sedition preferred against Dida Halake, former managing editor and managing director of the pro-government "Daily Observer" newspaper, who was recently detained.

MFWA's sources reported that the ruling followed a request by Halake's counsel, Lamin Jobarteh. The police prosecutor had earlier sought an adjournment to enable police to correct a drafted charge sheet that had been poorly written.

Despite the court's ruling, the police rearrested Halake and he is now in detention at a police station in Serrekunda, the Gambia's second largest city.

MFWA's sources said the former managing director was charged with sedition with two counts of seditious intention and passing on "false information" to a public servant, following information he allegedly sent via Short Message System (SMS) to President Yahya Jammeh. Details of that communication remain unknown.

According to MFWA's sources, Halake, a Kenyan-born journalist, had refused demotion from managing director to editor of the government-controlled privately-owned "Daily Observer". He has since been dismissed from the newspaper.

Before his appearance in court, Halake had been in detention for eleven days, far in excess of the 72-hour period that the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia stipulates. He was arrested on 12 June and made his first appearance on 23 June.

MFWA is dismayed by the ever increasing tendency of the Gambian authorities to suppress the free speech of journalists and media workers at the "Daily Observer".

MFWA calls for the repeal of the obnoxious seditious laws which are inimical to freedom of expression in general and press freedom in particular.

For further information on Halake's arrest, see:

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