International protests mark Gambian journalists' trial
3 July 2009
Michelle Stanistrett at the protest
The NUJ joined with Amnesty International and the TUC to hand in a letter of protest at the Gambian High Commission in London today. The protest was to to mark today's hearing in the case seven journalists who have been remanded in custody charged with sedition.
The NUJ is calling for the immediate release of the journalists, who include the leaders of the NUJ's sister union in Gambia.
The London protest is one of a series of demonstrations organised by the International Federation of Journalists and taking part outside Gambian embassies across the world, including those in Paris, Brussels, Stockholm and Rome.
The NUJ will also lobby Gambian diplomats in Ireland.
Last month senior officials in the Gambia Press Union, including Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, vice president, and Emil Touray, general secretary; along with editors and a reporter from several of the country's national newspapers were arrested by the National Intelligence Agency and charged with three counts of seditious publication.
The protest letter expresses concern at the increasing deterioration of freedom of expression in Gambia and demands that the charges against the seven are dropped and the case dismissed.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said:
"The arrest and subsequent trial today of these journalists and union leaders in Gambia on trumped up charges of sedition is an affront to freedom of expression and association, and a worrying development for others working in the media and running unions in that part of West Africa. They must be released immediately and all the unfounded charges levelled against them dropped."
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:
"These seven journalists have been locked up and put on trial for writing stories and press releases that would be part of normal democratic debate in most countries of the world.
"The NUJ calls for their immediate and unconditional release and for the government of Gambia to change their media laws to allow genuine freedom of expression."
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK director, said:
"These seven journalists should not be placed on trial. They are being punished simply for peacefully expressing their opinions. This is a woeful disgrace and the Gambian authorities should immediately call a halt to this trial.
"Amnesty has documented hundreds of cases of journalists being persecuted in Gambia for several years. Those who choose to dare to express their views risk facing an array of abuses, including unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, and torture.
"We urge the Gambian government to put an end to this trial and to allow all journalists to exercise their rights to freely express their views without fear of reprisal."