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Newspaper journalist charged with criminal defamation

(MFWA/IFEX) – 11 January 2012 – Mamadou S. Jallow, a reporter for the privately-owned Daily News, is facing criminal defamation charges for allegedly defaming Mamadou Lamin Baldeh, a local chief in western Gambia.

Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) sources reported that Jallow was charged on January 9, 2012, three days after he was arrested and detained for about five hours at the Bansanng police station in Brikamaba, a town about 250 kilometres from Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

According to the sources, the charges stem from an article Jallow wrote for the Daily News headlined: "Presidential Hajj Package Scandal: Chief Baldeh Allegedly Bribes Lover", which appeared on the front-page of the newspaper on January 4, 2012.

In the article, Boto Fatojo, a rice farmer who was detained along with Jallow, accused Chief Baldeh of giving his Hajj ticket (a sponsorship from President Yahya Jammeh to embark on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia) to his lover.

President Jammeh, a Muslim, has been sponsoring a number of Gambians to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage through local authorities.

"I was informed beforehand that a Hajj ticket was sent to me to go to Mecca, but the chief took it and gave it out to his lover," alleged Boto.

In the story, Chief Baldeh denies the allegations against him. "I was phoned by Governor Ganyi Touray (of Central River Region) to identify one woman in my district to go to Mecca," he explained. "And at the time of the phone call, I was with (the lady in question), so I gave the Hajj ticket to her."

MFWA is appalled by the criminal prosecution of a journalist who did his work diligently in carrying the full story and calls for an immediate halt to this criminal prosecution.

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