On July 1, 2015, the National Intelligent Agency (NIA) in The Gambia interrogated Editor-in-Chief/proprietor and four senior staff reporters of The Voice newspaper, the only independent newspaper in the country.
The people interrogated were the Editor-in-Chief and proprietor, Musa S. Sheriff; News Editor and Newsroom coordinator, Sulayman Ceesay; Assistant News Editor, Bakary Ceesay; and Senior Reporters, Amadou Bah and Mafugi Ceesay.
The MFWA’s sources say the NIA requested the reporters’ personal details, their friends and family contacts, and photos of the team. The NIA also interrogated the newspaper about how it obtains reports, its aim and objective, what they stand for and the kind of information they cover.
Investigators also asked about the paper’s source of revenue, travels and contacts outside The Gambia. According to the sources, the NIA said the reason behind the interrogation was to collect the details of the journalists for their safety and security, because there are so many talks concerning the paper and its reporters.
“This is for your own safety and security, this will help us to have a data on you people so anybody come and give us any information about you people, we will refer to the data and will ascertain whether what the person said is true or not,” one of the interrogators reportedly said.
The MFWA is concerned that the interrogations by the NIA, coupled with other recent violations against The Voice staff, have the tendency to lead to self-censorship.
On June 3, soldiers arrested and briefly detained Mafugi Ceesay when he went to cover a presidential meeting without a clearance or permission from the authorities.
In January 13, 2014, Musa S Sheriff was arrested together with a freelance journalist, Sainey Mareneh, and charged with false publication for reporting that 19 persons had defected from President Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction to the opposition United Democracy Party. The two journalists were charged with “conspiracy to commit felony” and “publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public.” After a 10-month trial, Sheriff and Mareneh were acquitted by a court in Banjul.
The notorious NIA in The Gambia have abused the rights of many citizens and journalists in the country. The NIA were responsible for the arrest and torture of Musa Saidykhan in March and the arrest and enforced disappearance of Ebrimah Manneh in July 2006.