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President grants pardon to six journalists jailed on defamation charges

(MFWA/IFEX) - Six Gambian journalists sentenced to two years' imprisonment by a Banjul High court for supposedly defaming President Yahya Jammeh were granted presidential pardon on 3 September 2009 and released.

Emil Touray and Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, secretary general and first vice president, respectively, of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), Pa Modou Fall, GPU treasurer, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh, managing editor and news editor, respectively, of "The Point" newspaper, and Sam Sarr, managing editor of "Foroyaa" newspaper, were convicted on 6 August on all six counts of criminal defamation and sedition registered against them.

The charges stemmed from an 11 June GPU press statement that criticised President Jammeh for consistently slandering the memory of the late Deyda Hydara, a veteran journalist who was brutally murdered by as-yet-unknown assailants in 2004.

The journalists and three others were rounded up and detained incommunicado before being brought to the Kanifing court and formally charged.

In a statement released during the 22h00 news bulletin on the state-owned Gamba Radio and Television Services (GRTS), President Jammeh said the pardon was in line with the spirit of the month of Ramadan, which encourages Muslims to forgive each other.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that President Jammeh sent a high profile delegation, including some members of his own cabinet, to the Mile Two Prison to secure the release of the journalists.
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