Gambia releases on bail local journalist for AP
A Gambian journalist who contributes to The Associated Press was released on bail Thursday after being detained by Gambia's internal security service for nearly three days.
Journalist Abdoulie John said he was released from the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency in the West African country's capital, Banjul.
But John said the intelligence agency is continuing to investigate him and has kept his laptop computer. John said he must report back to the security agency on Monday.
John had been held at the intelligence offices since Monday afternoon. Security officials took John to his home on Monday and searched it.
John, the editor of the website JollofNews as well as a contributor to AP, was previously held overnight by Gambian security officials on Dec. 9 after he covered the release of Senegalese soldiers by a rebel group. AP had been invited to the event and assigned John to cover it. John has said the Gambian president's photographer questioned his presence and an argument ensued. Since that incident John has been questioned several times by the intelligence agency but he has not been charged with any crime.
AP had protested John's detention and urged his release.
"We are relieved that our colleague Abdoulie John is finally free from the custody of Gambia's National Intelligence Agency, which has a documented record of disappearing and torturing journalists," said Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The NIA have been intimidating and harassing John for nearly a month on the basis of unspecified investigations. We call on Gambian authorities to stop persecuting John and return his laptop computer."
The International Federation of Journalists also stated it is pleased that John has been released.
"We welcome the release of Abdoulie John and call on the Minister of Justice and the security forces to free him and drop the bail which has no justification as our colleague has only done his job under the assignment of his news agency," said Gabriel Baglo, the Africa Director of the IFJ. "We condemn all these attacks against independent reporters which are bad signs for freedom of expression in the Gambia. We stand by Abdoulie John for his security."
Gambia is one of Africa's smallest and poorest countries with a population of about 1.8 million people. President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the country since he came to power in a coup in 1994. Human rights groups have accused the government of Gambia of carrying out arbitrary arrests, summary executions and torture in recent years.