Gambia: Community Radio Manager’s Disappearance goes unexplained

Gambia: Community Radio Manager’s Disappearance goes unexplained - Media

24 year old Sudanese refugee Samuel Gizaza Sala listens to the 2010 football World Cup qualifying game betwen Ghana and Sudan on the radio. Samuel and his family live out in the open under a tree in a residential neighbourhood in Accra.

UPDATE: Alagie Abdoulie Cessay, manager of Taranga community radio who was last seen on 2 July reportedly with security government agents, was released yesterday early morning. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are still unknown. We are relieved by this news, but remain concerned about his physical and psychological integrity.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the safety and security of Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the manager of Taranga FM, a community radio based in Sinchu Alhagie, a village in the Kombo North District, about 15 km from the Capital Banjul.

“We are disturbed by the disappearance of Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, who has now been missing for ten days without any contact with his family or colleagues,” says Fatou Jagne Senghor, Regional Director ARTICLE 19 West Africa.

On 2 July, Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, manager of the community radio station Taranga, was at his compound close to the radio station, when he was informed by a friend that two men in plain clothes were looking for him at the station near his house. When Ceesay went to talk to them, his friend tried to follow the exchange but was told by two men to go away.

Family members have since discovered that Ceesay was taken away in a black Mishubishi Pajero, with tinted windows, and without a number plate.

The day after the incident, relatives of Ceesay went to Banjul police station and to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters, but all deny having Ceesay in their custody. Family members contacted the Gambia Press Union (GPU) who reported the matter to the police and issued a statement asking authorities to ‘investigate the case and to ensure that Ceesay reunites with his family and staff.’

When contacted, David Kujabi, the Public Relations Officer of Banjul Police Station told ARTICLE 19 that ‘Ceesay is not in police custody’ and if he was there, they would have allowed family to visit him. Subsequently, the NIA was contacted by ARTICLE 19, but did not provide any response.

From other local sources close to the family, and relatives who spoke to ARTICLE 19, Ceesay is believed to be in NIA custody; there are fears for his safety.   

Taranga FM is one of the few radio stations in The Gambia that provides information to local communities by translating news from print media in the major local languages. Since August 2012, the radio has been shut down twice by the authorities, and has been under constant surveillance from state security apparatus.

Considering the constant repression of voices, especially journalists and human rights defenders, in the Gambia, and the lack of accountability in the security forces, violence against freedom of expression has entrenched impunity and tamed most voices in the country.

Ceesay’s disappearance came at a time when the case of Ebrima Manneh, another journalist who disappeared nine years ago has still not been elucidated. We call on the authorities to provide information about his whereabouts, and ensure his safety and security” Senghor added.

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the violence against journalists and human rights defenders in the Gambia, and the arbitrary violation of the right to liberty of Alagie Abdoulie Cessay.

ARTICLE 19 calls on Gambian Authorities to provide information on the whereabouts of Ceesay, and to release him.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the ACHPR and the UN to take up urgently the matter with the government.