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Threats made against reporter for AP and Jollof News

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 22 June 2010 - Gambian journalist Abdoulie John has received threats from unnamed callers over the past few weeks, he told IPI in a phone interview today.

John is a correspondent for the Associated Press news agency and an editor of online news outlet Jollof News. He told IPI he fears the threats are coming from Gambian security operatives.

Over the past month, John has received several threatening late-night calls. On 12 June, he received a call at three or four o'clock in the morning from an unknown number. He tried to call the number the next day, but the man who answered denied having made the threat.

The latest phone call came on Sunday, and was followed by a text message that read: "Today is the last day you will insult people," John said.

The threats are thought to be linked to his work at Jollof News online, where John covers various Gambian political issues.

"I will try and look into security means, because I do not take this lightly," John told IPI.

Although numerous Gambian journalists have left the country as a result of death threats, John said he has no intention of fleeing. "I'm not going to leave. Every time a journalist receives a threat and leaves, I think, who is going to report here? Every job comes with risks and this is my responsibility," he said.

John believes he is at greater risk than other journalists who report for Gambian online media, many of which are based outside the country. "I'm down here, but I'm using my byline," he said.

John reported the incidents to police in the town of Serrekunda. They require a printed call history from John's telephone service provider for their investigation, but when John returned to the station today to pick up a letter from the police requesting the documents, he was told that the Serrekunda station no longer provides this service, and that he had to go to police headquarters in the capital, Banjul.

"We are gravely concerned about reports of threats against Gambian journalist Abdoulie John," said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills, "particularly since journalists in Gambia operate under fear of death, harassment and physical harm. The police must immediately and thoroughly investigate this matter, and bring to justice those responsible for making these threats, no matter who they are."

Abdoulie John is the former deputy editor-in-chief and production manager of the government-controlled Daily Observer in Banjul, where he worked until August 2009.

John began working for the government mouthpiece in 2006, but was fired in October 2007 after he received a warning from the then-managing director, who told him to stop filing for Agence-France Presse and the Associated Press agency, John said. He was reinstated a few days after, although he did not stop filing for the agencies.

According to John, he was fired again from the Daily Observer in August 2009 because he attempted to switch the newspaper's printers - which turned out to be a political mistake. Shortly after John was forced out, the Daily Observer's managing director and ruling party member Pa Malick Faye allegedly pushed to have John detained by the Inspector General of the Gambian police, John said. He was forced to sign a handing-over note, and was released several hours later, he told IPI. That Inspector General of Police is now standing trial on charges of cocaine trafficking, according to media reports.

Jollof News, for which John reports, is an online newspaper based in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom and was founded in January 2010 by Yusupha Cham. Yusupha is the brother of Kemo Cham, who was the editor-in-chief of the government-controlled Daily Observer in Banjul until he left the country in August 2009, at the same time that John was let go.

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