The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA) have issued a joint statement in which they say they are "gravely concerned about the continued illegal and arbitrary closure" of Citizen FM radio station in Banjul, The Gambia. For more than two years, the government of President Yahya Jammeh has stopped Citizen FM from broadcasting on a false claim that the station's owner, Baboucar M. Gaye, has not paid his taxes and licence fees. MISA and MFWA believe this accusation to be a blatant fabrication. Citizen FM has not been charged in court, nor has it been ordered by any court to cease broadcasting based on the authorities' accusations.
IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community
ACTION ALERT UPDATE - THE GAMBIA
27 August 2003
MISA and MFWA call for reopening of Citizen FM radio station
SOURCE: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek
**Updates IFEX alerts of 2 November and 30 October 2001, 11 and 6 July 2000,
22 and 17 June 1999, 19 May, 20 April, 3 March, 19, 13 and 9 February 1998**
**MISA and the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA), as a joint activity,
will henceforth issue alerts, statements and appeals to highlight media
freedom and wider human rights violations in West Africa. See www.misa.org
and www.mediafoundationwa.org for more information**
(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a joint MISA-MFWA alert:
MISA and the MFWA are gravely concerned about the continued illegal and
arbitrary closure of Citizen FM radio station in Banjul, The Gambia.
For more than two years, the government of President Yahya Jammeh has
stopped Citizen FM from broadcasting on a false claim that the station's
owner, Baboucar M. Gaye, has not paid his taxes and licence fees. MISA and
MFWA believe this accusation to be a blatant fabrication. Citizen FM has not
been charged in court, nor has it been ordered by any court to cease
broadcasting based on the authorities' accusations.
It appears the President's Office has determined to stop this particular
station for motives that are unclear. Citizen FM and its owner have been
harassed and attacked with impunity since the station was established.
More than five years ago, armed security personnel raided and forcibly shut
down Citizen FM radio station.
On 5 February 1998, Citizen FM owner Gaye was arrested, together with his
news editor, Ebrima Sillah, and detained for several days at the National
Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul.
A news item broadcast on the station the previous night reportedly
implicated an NIA officer, Lamin Jobarteh, in an alleged counterfeit
scandal. Jobarteh exercised his constitutional right to a rejoinder and his
reaction was given the requisite publicity on radio and in print.
Two days later, however, on 7 February 1998, the station was forcibly shut
down and armed guards were stationed on the premises. Gaye was charged under
a 1913 telegraphic law for allegedly operating a radio station without a
valid licence, a charge he denied. The 1913 act is an archaic colonial law
that was passed before radio broadcasting was invented.
On 28 August 1998, a magistrate court ruled that the station and its
equipment be forfeited to the state.
On 17 April 2000, after two years of protracted litigation, a high court in
Banjul heard Gaye's appeal. Justice Wallace Grante quashed the earlier
ruling by the Magistrate Court and ordered the inspector general of police
to return the station's equipment within seven days. According to Justice
Grant, Gaye was convicted under a "colonial legal relic" that, measured
against The Gambia's current legal system, was "not known in law."
Following the court ruling, the station resumed operation for a brief
period, but was shut down again by security operatives on the allegation of
non-payment of taxes. Gaye has denied this accusation and has proof of
compliance with the regulations.
The refusal of The Gambia's authorities to comply with the high court ruling
is a worrying testament to the intolerant and authoritarian stance of
President Jammeh's government. It is a threat to media freedom and freedom
of expression in The
MISA and the MFWA call on the government of President Jammeh to demonstrate
respect for the rule of law and media freedom in The Gambia by ensuring that
Citizen FM is allowed to return to the airwaves without further delay.
Send appeals to authorities:
- protesting the closure of Citizen FM and urging them to ensure that the
radio station is allowed to return to the airwaves as soon as possible
H. E. Yahyah A. A. Jammeh
President of the Republic of The Gambia
c/o Director of Press/Public Relations
New Administration Building
Quadrangle, Banjul, The Gambia
Tel: +220 201 031 / 226 316
Fax: +220 226 696
Minister of Foreign Affairs
4 Muammar Ghadaffi Avenue
Banjul, The Gambia
Tel: +220 223 577
Fax: +220 223 578
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.
For further information, contact Zoe Titus, Program Coordinator, Media
Freedom Monitoring, MISA, Street Address: 21 Johann Albrecht Street, Mailing
Address; Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia, tel: +264 61 232 975, fax:
+264 61 248 016, e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected], Internet:
http://www.misa.org, or Kwame Karikari, Executive Director, Media Foundation
for West Africa, P. O. Box LG 730, Legon, Ghana, tel: 233 21 24 24 70, fax:
+233 21 22 10 84, e-mail: [email protected], Internet:
The information contained in this action alert update is the sole
responsibility of MISA. In citing this material for broadcast or
publication, please credit MISA.
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