His Excellency President Yahya Jammeh
President of Gambia
20 January 2011
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the closure of Taranga FM.
According to reports, on 13 January the authorities ordered the closure until further notice of the privately-owned community radio station in a suburb of Serrekunda, southwest of Banjul. No reason for the closure was given, although the station had recently been visited by members of the National Intelligence Agency and the station’s owner, Ismaila Ceesay, had been detained for questioning.
We are particularly concerned that Taranga FM should be closed since it is reportedly the last radio station in the country to broadcast independent news and the only one to broadcast in local languages. Taranga is not the first station to be closed arbitrarily by the authorities. In recent years other stations, including Citizen FM, Radio 1 FM and Sud FM have suffered the same fate. Moreover, many journalists have been forced into exile after a long-running campaign of intimidation of private media that includes assaults, arrests, repressive legislation and even murder.
We respectfully bring to your attention the Declaration of Table Mountain, endorsed at the 60th World Newspaper Congress and 14th Editors Forum in Cape Town in June 2007. The Declaration calls on African states to promote the highest standards of press freedom, uphold the principles proclaimed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other protocols, and provide constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.
We are concerned that many of Gambia’s media laws violate numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and remind you that the 48th session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, meeting in Banjul last November, put forward a resolution on repealing criminal defamation. The Gambian Attorney General also pledged during this meeting to investigate the provisions in the Criminal Code and the Newspaper Amendment Act that make press offences a crime punishable with prison sentences.
We call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that Taranga FM is allowed to broadcast immediately and that your government ends its campaign of intimidation against private media. We ask you to ensure that in future your country fully respects the Declaration of Table Mountain and acts urgently to bring media legislation into line with internationally accepted standards.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.
cc: Faith Pansy Tlakula, African Commission Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
Enc. Declaration of Table Mountain