Rights activists voice fears for missing Gambian journalist

GMT 16:52 2015 Thursday ,09 July

Arab Today, arab today Rights activists voice fears for missing Gambian journalist

Gambia Press Union
Banjul - AFP

A high-profile Gambian journalist has been missing for a week after being abducted by suspected intelligence agents, press freedom campaigners said on Thursday, voicing fears for his safety.

Alagie Ceesay, manager of the independent Teranga FM, disappeared outside the radio station's Banjul headquarters on July 2, Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

"We are extremely worried about Alagie Ceesay's disappearance," said Clea Kahn-Sriber, head of the Africa desk at the rights group, known by its French initials RSF.

While saying journalists being abducted was "nothing new in Gambia" Kahn-Scriber said "every day that passes increases our concern about Ceesay's fate."

Ceesay had just finished his meal ending the daily Ramadan fast when a friend told him two men outside the radio station were asking to see him, RSF said.

"Ceesay went outside to speak to them and neither his family nor his colleagues have seen him since then," it added.

A witness reported seeing two men bundle him into their four-wheel drive before driving away.

RSF said Ceesay managed to call his brother to say he had been taken by officers from the west African nation's feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

"His line went off before he finished what he wanted to say. I called back, but his line was off," the brother, Amadou Ceesay, confirmed to AFP.

Another family member told AFP the NIA has denied holding the journalist.

Launched in 2009, Teranga FM has been shut down three times in five years by the government, according to the Gambia Press Union, which is also campaigning for Ceesay's release.

Ceesay was arrested and questioned by police when the Gambian authorities shut the station for several days in January.

No explanation was given for the clampdown, but it followed a failed coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh in December last year.

Analysts had warned that Jammeh, who has been accused of widespread human rights violations during his 21-year rule, could use the attack on State House in Banjul as justification for stifling dissent.

Dozens of soldiers and civilians have been arrested over the attack, with many still missing, according to family members and rights groups.

Jammeh has led the small country of two million people since taking power in a coup in 1994 and is often accused of muzzling journalists.

Deyda Hydara, editor of the daily The Point Newspaper and a correspondent for Agence France-Presse, was killed by unidentified gunmen on his way home from work on December 16, 2004.

Suspicion immediately fell on Jammeh's regime, prompting an outcry at home and abroad, but allegations against his inner circle went no further and the murder remains unsolved.

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