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Authorities censor Taranga FM again

(MFWA/IFEX) - The Gambian authorities on August 10, 2011 ordered the management of Taranga FM, a community radio station in the southwest of Banjul, the capital, to cease broadcasting of all press review programmes of privately-owned newspapers.

Taranga FM is the only private radio station with press review programmes which are broadcast in two popular Gambian languages, Wollof and Mandika, to the majority of uneducated Gambians. It also broadcasts in the English language.

Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) sources reported that Ismaila Ceesay, managing director of the station, was summoned to the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on August 10 and ordered to stop the press review programmes.

This is the second time that the authorities have censored the station this year. On January 13, 2011, Taranga FM was reopened after the Gambian authorities issued a warning to the station's management to stop reviewing what they described as "opposition" newspapers. The station resumed programming without its popular "Xibari besbi", a news and current affairs programme that reviewed newspapers in the two local languages.

In a letter, the management was ordered to desist from reviewing opposition-linked newspapers which were alleged to be "sponsored by foreign donors." The letter said President Yahya Jammeh had given the station a second chance.

Responding to a question about the closure, Alagie Cham, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, told the members of the National Assembly in April that the radio station was temporarily closed down over "some administrative procedures".

MFWA is not surprised by this development. This is another phase in the authorities' clampdown on the media in an attempt to scuttle presidential elections scheduled for September.

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