Lamin Fatty, a reporter of Banjul-based bi-weekly The Independent was arrested by the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) of the Gambian Police. No reasons were given for the arrest.
Fatty who is still in detention is the third journalist of the newspaper to be arrested. Two others, the newspaper’s editor Musa Saidykhan and general manager Madi Ceesay were arrested last month and have since been detained without charge. Following Fatty’s arrest other journalists from The Independent went into hiding. The source said although no official reasons have been assigned for the arrest and detention of Fatty, it might be due to a lead story that appeared in the March 24 issue of The Independent. The story reported that Samba Bah, former functionary of the government, was among those arrested after the March 21, alleged coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh.
When this information turned out to be false, the newspaper in a subsequent edition published a correction in the form of a rejoinder by the former minister as well as an apology. The newspaper’s offices have been forcibly shut down, since the alleged coup in March 2006; its journalists fled the country. The MWFA condemns the arrest and continued detention of the three journalists who have as yet not been charged with any criminal offence. MFWA demands the immediate and unconditional release of the three who have been in police custody for a period in excess of the 72 hours stipulated in the Gambian constitution.
MFWA is aware that with elections due in October 2006, President Jammeh is employing several tactics to stifle free expression and intimidate the opposition as a way of scuttling the elections.