PEN expresses alarm over detention of Gambian independent paper editor & manager
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh
c/o Embassy of the Gambia
1155 15th Street, NW, Suite 1000,
Washington DC 20005
Via Fax: 1-202-785-1430
On behalf of the 3,100 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our alarm over the continued detention of Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, who have now been in custody for one week without being informed of the reasons.
According to our information, Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, Editor and General Manager respectively of the private newspaper The Independent, were detained early last Tuesday, March 28. The Independent’s offices were also sealed off by security forces. We understand that Gambian law normally requires that detainees be brought before a court within a three-day period. The two journalists have now been in custody for more than three days without being informed of the reasons.
PEN American Center is particularly concerned as this is not the first time that the newspaper and its staff have been subjected to official harassment. Last October, NIA agents detained and harassed Saidykhan in connection with an article on the unsolved December 2004 murder of prominent Gambian editor Deyda Hydara, who was posthumously honored with the 2005 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. The Independent lost its printing press in an unsolved arson in April 2004 and in May 2005 was temporarily forced to stop publishing after its printing arrangement with the private Daily Observer was abruptly terminated. Sources say they believe the publishers were either threatened not to print The Independent, or they feared their own presses could be attacked.
Such incidents call into question the Gambian government’s commitment to promote freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Gambia is a signatory. We respectfully call upon you to uphold the Gambia’s international commitments by facilitating the immediate and unconditional release of Musa Saidykhan and Madi Ceesay, ending the intimidation of all journalists, and allowing The Independent to resume publishing without fear of reprisal.
Thank you for attending to this matter.
Chair, PEN Freedom to Write Committee
Director, PEN Freedom to Write & International Programs