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Journalists charged with sedition freed on bail

Seven Gambian journalists charged with sedition last week for criticising the President have been freed on bail, while two other detainees were released without charge, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Meanwhile, a journalist covering the sedition trial has been detained without charge.

The Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrested the seven earlier this month in connection with a 12 June press union statement that criticised President Yayha Jammeh for "inappropriate" comments made on state television about the 2004 murder of "The Point" editor Deyda Hydara. The next hearing in their case is scheduled for 7 July.

"We welcome the release on bail of these seven journalists, but the fact remains that the charges against them are spurious," said CPJ. "Authorities should halt the prosecution immediately."

Thirty-eight IFEX members had signed an appeal launched by RSF calling for the release of six of the journalists, who were initially jailed in Mile Two prison before bail was set.

Two other journalists arrested late last week in connection to the case have been freed without charge. Halifa Sallah, the managing editor of "Foroyaa", and Abba Jibba, deputy news editor of "The Point", each posted bail of US$7,500.

Meanwhile, Augustine Kanjia, a reporter for "The Point" who was arrested on 22 June while covering the sedition case, is still being held without charge. Kanjia, who is of Sierra Leone origin, was among dozens of journalists, including a camera crew from the Gambia Radio and Television Service, who had gathered outside the packed magistrate court.

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