Journalist attacked while reporting on press conference
At a foreign ministry press conference on 5th March 2017, journalist Kebba Jeffang from the private Forayaa newspaper was assaulted by supporters of the new Gambian president Adama Barrow. The assault occurred after Jeffang had asked a question to the three ministers present about the potential break-up of the governing coalition before elections slated for April 2017. This question angered President Barrow's supporters in the conference room who responded by physically and verbally attacking the journalist. The police have begun an investigation into the attack.
After Barrow's assumption of the presidency in January 2017, Gambian and international organisations had issued statements urging the new president to pursue a path towards greater democracy and freedom in Gambia, and not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh. Despite these calls, this latest attack shows that freedom of expression and the protection of an independent media continue to be serious challenges under the new government.
In an open letter to President Barrow on 9th March 2017, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Barrow to condemn the violence against Jeffang. RSF also recommended that the government reform the law on information and communications and the penal code to ensure that media professionals are able to carry out their work openly and without fear of politically-motivated legal reprisals or criminal charges. The Gambia Press Union in Banjul joined RSF in strongly condemning the attack against Jeffang as "a barbaric and illegal act having no place in a democratic society".