By Modou S. Joof
The criminal trial against Alagie Jobe, a deputy editor-in-chief of the pro-government Daily Observer, who is charged with sedition, is set for hearing on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.
Mr Jobe, who was arraigned before the Kanifing Magistrates Court last Tuesday, is facing multiple charges of “sedition”, “false publication” and “forgery” over a story about an alleged fugitive soldier, which police prosecutors claim to be false.
He is also facing charges of “making documents without authority” and “giving false information to a public officer”.
He denied all six charges and was not represented by a counsel on his first appearance before the lower court, which ordered for his remand at the country’s maximum security wing, the Mile 2 Central Prison, in the outskirts of the Gambian capital.
Editor Jobe, has been in detention at the headquarters of the country’s secret police, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul since his arrest on February 7, 2013.
On March 12, local journalists who saw Mr Jobe told Front Page International (FPI) the journalist appeared “very weak” in court.
In a charge sheet, the police accuse Mr Jobe of publishing on a 19th December 2012 edition of the Daily Observer that “Major Lamin Touray is on the run for imminent re-arrest and detention and charged in absentia for breach of office ethics and codes, by refusing to take orders in execution of some people”.
they claim, was done “with intent to bring hatred and to excite disaffection against the person of the President of The Gambia and the government of The Gambia”.
Mr Mbye Bittaye, an employee of a Lebanese-owned mobile telephony company, Africell, who is charged alongside journalist Jobe, is accused of “unlawful inquiries relating to possibility of forgery”. He too denied any wrong doing.
The Gambia Press Union, GPU, the highest representative of journalists in the tiny and poor West African country, in February, condemned Jobe’s detention beyond the legal limit of 72 hours and called for his immediate release.
International agencies like Article19, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) have documented, and often criticised The Gambia Government of violations of press freedom and free expression.