2 journalists forced to testify

2010-08-09 22:26

Banjul - Two Gambian journalists were summoned to court on Monday to explain a report on the trial of the country's ex-police chief Ensa Badjie, in which they said he claimed he had been tortured in custody.

On Friday the independent The Point newspaper carried the headline "My client was tortured to obtain statement" in an article citing Badjie's lawyer. The former police chief is on trial for alleged involvement in drug-trafficking, along with the ex-head of the drugs agency.

"There was no time when this statement was said in court. This is not what the defence counsel said," Justice Emmanuel Amadi told deputy editor in chief Abba Gibba and senior reporter Sainey Marenah.

The journalists' lawyer Antouman Gaye pointed out "that for the sake of clarity and in the interest of justice, two other major newspapers wrote the same thing as The Point did".

He then handed the judge copies of the Foroyaa and Daily Observer newspapers. Defence lawyer Borry Touray then told the judge: "Yes, my lord, I said this in court."

Amadi then concluded: "Fine since, it is himself (defence counsel) who said so, let the world take it that he said it but I did not hear this said in court. Okay then, you (the journalists) can go."

Gambia is regularly criticised for its lack of media freedom.

Amnesty International said earlier this year in a report that a government crackdown on press freedom had seen about 29 journalists flee the country since 1994.

In December 2004, The Point's editor Deyda Hydara, who was also an AFP correspondent, was gunned down by unidentified gunmen in his car. Six other journalists have simply disappeared in recent years.