Gambia: Police make changes to charges against two journalists

13 Feb
Local journalists in Banjul had called for a Reform of Media Laws on World Press Freedom Day 2013 (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof/Globe/FPI)

Local journalists in Banjul had called for Reform of Media Laws on World Press Freedom Day 2013 (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof/Globe/FPI)

The police in Banjul, the Gambian capital, have made changes on Thursday to charges brought against two journalists.

The Editor-In-Chief of The Voice newspaper Musa S. Sheriff and freelance journalist Sainey MK Marenah earlier denied charges of “conspiracy to commit felony” and “publication of false news”.

On February 13, 2014, the prosecution amended the charges to “conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour” and “false publication”. The journalists have maintained their not guilty plea.

A prosecution witness told the Banjul Magistrate Court the Office of the President had on 7 January, 2014 directed the Inspector General of Police to investigate a news article published by The Voice that claims 19 Green Youths (young supporters of President Jammeh) had left the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) for the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP).

Lamin Jammeh of the police criminal investigation unit for West Coast Region said “the information is false.”

He said on 30 November, 2013 there was a “political rally” held at Tanji Youth Centre and “there was no speaker at the said meeting who mentioned the cross carpet of 19 green youths to the opposition party.”

He told the court a panel of investigators found out that there are 58 green youths in Tanji and on that day all of them were scattered in various places – some of them were in Kanilai.

The journalists lawyer Lamin S. Camara objected to prosecutor Musa Camara’s application to tender a copy of the newspaper.

“It is common knowledge that newspapers are not printed by hand. In this day and age, newspapers are printed through computers,” the lawyer argues.

He said the prosecutor did not satisfy any part of Section 22 of the Evidence Act which requires “laying the foundation” for the paper to be tendered in court.

Lawyer Camara also urges the court to reject the newspaper but prosecution Camara argues that the section [22] referred to by the defence is “not applicable” in this issue.

“It is common knowledge that newspapers are produce by newspapers and disseminated to the general public,” the prosecutor argues, urging the court admit the copy.

Magistrate Lamin Mbye, presiding, did not rule on whether he will admit or reject the copy of The Voice newspaper as prosecution evidence, and has adjourned the case till 19 February, 2014.

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