Three renowned International Human Rights Organisations have called on The Gambia to immediately and unconditionally release ailing journalist, Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay, the Managing Director of Taranga FM and drop all charges against him.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, who issued the joint statement in Dakar on March 9, 2016 see the case of Mr Ceesay as an example of “Gambia’s blatant disregard of press freedom.”
Alagie Abdoulie Ceesay, has been charged with sedition and “publication of false news.” He has been hospitalized twice since the beginning of 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Gambia last week to release Mr Ceesay and drop all charges against him.
The authors were critical of the charge: “The use of archaic sedition laws to harass and lock up critics is a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.
During his detention Alagie Ceesay has been held ‘incommunicado’ for two periods by members of the Gambian security forces. Ceesay was held in an unknown location from July 2 to July 13, then released.
He was rearrested on July 17 and detained at the National Intelligence Agency headquarters, which is not an official place of detention, without access to a lawyer or his family. He was taken before the High Court on August 25 and charged with six counts of sedition under Section 52 of the Gambian Criminal Code, and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm among the public. He is currently held at Mile 2 prison on the outskirts of the capital, Banjul. In February this year, he was denied bail for the fourth time.
Abdoulie Ceesay’s health has been deteriorating since the beginning of 2016. On January 13, he was hospitalized. A doctor diagnosed him with an enlarged liver and prescribed pain medication. On February 29, he was readmitted to the same hospital for an asthma attack and returned to prison on March 1.
“Alhagie Ceesay shouldn’t have been locked up in the first place,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The deterioration in his health only underscores the urgent need to release him.”