Human rights defender arrested, charged
We support Comrade Madi Jobarteh, a human rights defender in The Gambia. He was arrested by the Gambia Police Force on October 9, 2023, and is currently in judicial custody. He has been targeted for his peaceful campaign for accountability and democratic laws within the gvt. pic.twitter.com/Er3wt28QnW— Africans Rising (@AfricansRising) November 9, 2023
HRD arrested, charged
On 9th October 2023, the Gambia Police Force arrested human rights defender (HRD) Madi Jobarteh, the country representative for Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and placed him in judicial custody at the Jabang anti-crime facility. During his arrest, Jobarteh’s phone and his daughter’s phone were seized, without a warrant, with the police requesting to unlock the HRD’s phone, which the latter refused to do.
Three days prior to his arrest, on 6th October 2023, four agents of the State Intelligence Unit (SIU) and the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) reportedly came to Jobarteh’s residence to question him on alleged posts on Facebook - all related to the promotion of democracy according to Frontline Defenders - and refused the request to accompany them to the police station. The following day, the police reportedly subjected him to surveillance and acts of intimidation.
On 9th November 2023, Jobarteh was charged with ‘seditious intention, incitement to violence, and false publication and broadcasting’ under the Criminal Code. He had been released on a bail bond of 100,000 Gambian Dalasi (USD 1,470) on 11th October 2023 while in hospital with an illness.
Madi Jobarteh has been repeatedly targeted for his peaceful campaign in support of accountability and respect for democratic laws. During the annual meeting with Banjul Muslim Elders for Koriteh at the State House on 2nd May 2022, President Adama Barrow publicly accused Madi Jobarteh of being a “troublemaker” who wants to bring violence to the country. It is believed that the comment was made in relation to a social media post by the HRD calling for the removal of a government minister over alleged mismanagement of public lands. As reported previously on the Monitor, in June 2020, Madi Jobarteh was questioned and charged with ‘false information and broadcasting’ under the Criminal Code over an interview in which the HRD said that the government had failed to act and investigate the killings of Gambian citizens by the Gambian police. Charges were dropped on 10th July 2020.
President Barrow threatens press freedom and freedom of expression in a series of remarks
According to the Gambia Press Union (GPU), President Adama Barrow made public remarks in September and October 2023 that threaten freedom of expression and press freedom in Gambia.
During the opening of the National People’s Party (NPP) bureau in Bansang, Central River Region, on 29th September 2023, President Barrow reportedly said that “If there was no democracy, Kerr Fatou wouldn’t have existed. If there was no democracy, Mbenge Kering ‘Radio’ would not exist in The Gambia. And all radio stations that criticise the government would not exist either.” The statement was condemned by both media platforms as a “dangerous attack”.
When a government singles out specific media outlets for intimidation or suppression, it sets a perilous precedent that endangers the essential role of the press as a bulwark against governmental overreach. - CEO of Kerr Fatou Media, Fatou Touray
On 2nd October 2023, during the opening of another NPP bureau in Wassu, Central River Region, President Barrow pledged to take action against those who want to “burn” the country. He said that “the state of democracy in the country has reached an excessive point, with people freely expressing their opinions without accountability. I will talk to the Inspector General of Police. T those who want to burn this country will be arrested and detained.”
The following day, on 3rd October 2023, he reportedly said in the Mandinka language that “I want to emphasize that no one will be allowed to insult others in the Gambia without facing consequences. Even on radio, if someone calls in and engages in insulting behaviour, we will take appropriate action, including arresting the owner of the radio station. Moreover, on social media, we will put an end to the practice of insulting others. Even if individuals are released on bail by a judge, we will re-arrest them”, while inaugurating a NPP bureau in Jarra Soma, Lower River Region. He further called the leading opposition party the “biggest threat to national security”. Modou S. Joof, secretary general of GPU commented:
These threats directed at the media are totally unacceptable – such remarks from President Barrow have the effect of inciting his supporters and party militants and the police against the media. - Modou S. Joof, secretary general of GPU