MFWA Sues Gambia Government

22 June 2007 at 08:12 | 1901 views

The Community Court of Justice of the Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja ,
Nigeria has issued a hearing notice for a suit filed
against the Republic of Gambia by the Media Foundation
for West Africa (MFWA) on behalf of a “disappeared”
Gambian journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, reporter of
pro-government Banjul-based “Daily Observer”

This follows an application filed on behalf of the
journalist by MFWA through its Journalists’ Legal
Defence Programme. The application seeks an order from
the sub-regional court to compel the government of
President Yahya Jammeh to immediately release Chief
Manneh and compensate him adequately.

The court has fixed July 10, 2007 for the hearing. The
date coincides with the eve of the first anniversary
of Manneh’s arrest and incarceration. Colleagues of
Manneh witnessed his arrest by two plain-clothed
personnel of the notorious political police, the
National Intelligence Agency (NIA), at the “Daily
Observer’s” premises on July 11, 2006. But the
government and police claim they do not know the
whereabouts of Manneh. Simply he is “disappeared”.

The writ, filed by Nigerian human rights lawyer Femi
Falana, a member of the MFWA Legal Defence Network
said that the arrest of Manneh without warrant and his
continual detention is unlawful and a violation of his
right as guaranteed under Articles 4, 5 and 7 of the
African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. It also
violates Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and
Peoples Rights which guarantees his right to personal

The Gambian government has blatantly refused several
requests from human rights groups to either release or
charge Manneh if he has committed any offence.

In a reaction to the continuous demands for the
release of Manneh, the Gambia Police Force, after
eight months of the journalist’s disappearance, on 21
February 2007 officially denied ever arresting him and
urged the general public to furnish it with any
"relevant" information about him.

MFWA sources have indicated earlier that, after his
arrest, Manneh was detained variously at the NIA
Headquarters, Mile Two Central Prisons, Kartong Police
Station, Sibanor Police Station, Kuntaur Police
Station and then at Fatoto Police Station where he was
last spotted after 188 days incommunicado.

Gambian media practitioners have been subjected to
unlawful arrests, detentions, murder, and closure of
newspapers resulting in several journalists escaping
into exile. Those within are practicing
self-censorship as a means of protection.

The MFWA and the Network of African Freedom of
Expression Organizations (NAFEO) have launched a
campaign to end the impunity and attacks on free
expression in Gambia , and have published a 63-page
dossier of press freedom abuses since President Jammeh
came to power in 1994.

Issued by the MFWA, Accra June 20, 2007.

The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit,
non-governmental organization based in Accra . It was
founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and
freedom of the media and all forms of expression.