Gambian Police Beat Journalist Returned From Exile
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Gambian authorities to identify and punish the police officers who attacked radio station manager Pa Modou Bojang while he was covering deadly clashes between police and protesters in Faraba Banta, a village 50 km south of the capital, Banjul, on 18 June
The manager of Home Digital FM, Bojang was violently assaulted on the morning of 18 June while he was covering a protest by residents against the mining of sand in the area, which they say is polluting rice paddies. Two people were killed as police tried to break up the demonstration. Describing his arrest by the police, Bojang said: “I identified myself as journalist with my professional press card but they slapped and beat me anyway. They said, ‘you journalists have destroyed this country and if Yahya Jammeh were here, we would have killed all of you.’” Jammeh was Gambia’s president from 1994 until his ouster in 2017.
After arresting him, Bojang said the police tried to get him to delete the contents of his mobile phone. “They asked me to format my mobile. I refused. They took my audio recorder.”
The police finally released Bojang in the evening but did not return his audio recorder. He was then seen with his shirt spattered with blood in a video interview posted on social networks.
“This kind of police violence against journalists has no place in the new era that began in Gambia after the departure of Yahya Jammeh, one of Africa’s worst press freedom predators,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
“The new Gambian authorities must not only firmly condemn this attack but also investigate the police violence against this reporter, in order to demonstrate a clear intention to put a stop to violence against journalists and to the systematic impunity that those responsible enjoyed under the previous regime.”
When reached by RSF, information and communication minister Demba Ali Jawo said: “There is absolutely no justification and it is inacceptable for a journalist doing his work to be beaten or harassed.”
The Gambian Press Union (GPU) said: “Authorities should first have instructed the police to under no circumstances use force against journalists.”
Bojang returned to Gambia in February 2018 after spending nine years in exile to escape Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial regime. Before leaving, he was arrested twice and was tortured during three weeks in prison on 2008. During Jammeh’s 23-year reign of terror, censorship, violence and arbitrary detention drove 110 journalists to flee the country. According to the GPU, nearly 30 of them have returned since the dictator’s removal in January 2017.
Gambia is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, 21 places higher than in 2017. This was the world’s biggest rise in this year’s index.