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Six journalists released on bail, another arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - On 23 June 2009, Reporters Without Borders expressed its relief after learning of the release on bail, on 22 June, of the six journalists accused of "seditious publication" and imprisoned at Mile Two jail in Banjul. At the same time, Augustine Kanjia, of the daily "The Point", was arrested.

"The release from jail of these six journalists is obviously good news, but the relief will only be complete when the accusation of "seditious publication" against them is dropped," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"This positive development should not allow it to be forgotten the fear aroused by this wave of arrests. We urge moreover the immediate release of Augustine Kanjia", the organisation added.

Six journalists – the secretary general of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) Emil Touray, its treasurer Pa Modou Fall, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh, respectively publisher and editor of the independent daily "The Point", as well as two staff on the newspaper "Foroyaa", editor Sam Sarr and reporter Abubakar Saidykhan – held for the last four days in Mile Two jail were brought to Kanifing police court in the Banjul suburbs on 22 June and all were granted bail for the sum of 200,000 dalasis (about 5,400 euros). The GPU vice-president, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, who was arrested at the same time as the others and is the mother of a small child, was released on bail on 18 June.

All the journalists are due to appear in court again for on 7 July for trial on the "seditious publication" charge for publishing a statement calling on President Yahya Jammeh to acknowledge his government's responsibility in the 2004 murder of Deyda Hydara, editor and co-founder of "The Point", who was also the Gambia correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reporters Without Borders.

A few days earlier, in an interview with government television GRTS, President Jammeh denied any state implication in the killing. Journalists called his comments "provocative" and "ill-timed".

Many journalists and families of the defendants attended the court hearing on 22 June, as did the US and UK ambassadors. Augustine Kanjia, a journalist with "The Point" who is of Sierra Leonian origin, was arrested and taken to the police station in Serrekunda. He is accused of having taken photos of the court and those attending. An eyewitness told Reporters Without Borders that Kanjia was simply changing the memory card on his camera.

On 22 June, thirty eight IFEX members signed an appeal launched by Reporters Without Borders calling for the release of the six journalists jailed in Mile Two prison.

These organisations are:

1. Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
2. Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP), Algeria
3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
4. ARTICLE 19 (A19), U.K.
5. Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
6. Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Serbia
7. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
8. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
9. Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI), U.S.A.
10. Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
11. Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), Honduras
12. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), U.S.A.
13. Exiled Journalists Network (EJN),UK
14. Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Nepal
15. Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
16. Index on Censorship, U.K.
17. Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna -TR), Turkey
18. Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
19. Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
20. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
21. International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, U.K
22. International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
23. Journaliste en Danger (JED), Democratic Republic of Congo
24. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
25. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
26. Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana
27. Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
28. Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
29. Media Watch, Bangladesh
30. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Somalia
31. L'Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création (OLPEC), Tunisia
32. Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), American Samoa
33. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada)
34. Public Association "Journalists" (PAJ), Kyrgyzstan
35. Reporters sans frontières (RSF), France
36. West African Journalists' Association (WAJA), Ghana/Senegal
37. World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Canada
38. World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
39. World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), U.S.A.

Reporters Without Borders
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