Gambia: GPU condemns arbitrary arrest of journalist Yusef Taylor

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) issued a press release condemning the arbitrary arrest of journalist Yusef Taylor, also known as “Flex Dan”.

The GPU said it received official reports that on July 5, 2022, Yusef Taylor, a journalist who is also the editor of “Gainako,” an online newspaper, was arbitrarily arrested and allegedly charged with “doing obstructing a police officer”. in the performance of his duty”.

According to the GPU, Mr. Taylor was detained at the Senegambia police station for four hours after trying to report on the latest arrest of Neneh Freda Gomez and Lamin Sey of the Medical Charity group “Global Home of Medical Mission” (Global HoMM ).

“Global HoMM is embroiled in a dispute with the Gambia government over land for which the former has obtained a court ruling in its favour, as the rightful owner of the land on which the government wants to build a hotel for the 2022 OIC summit,” the Press Union said in a statement.

The GPU further reported that Mr. Taylor has regularly reported on this matter, including fact-checking government statements and stories on the matter, and has found some of these claims to be “false or misleading”. He was released on Tuesday evening and said he was told by police he was charged with “obstructing”.

“Taylor was arrested after police attempted to forcibly remove him from the station premises (thus assaulting him) as he attempted to inquire about the detention of Global HoMM representatives Neneh Freda Gomez and Lamin Sey,” the press release read.

The GPU said that after first trying to force him out of the station in a high-handed manner, which resulted in his shirt being torn, the police officers then decided to drag Mr Taylor into the station and to lock him in one of the cells, according to a colleague who witnessed the incident, along with a GPU security guard who went to the police station where the journalist was being held.

In their press release, the GPU condemns the actions of these officers in full and further expresses its dismay at the unfortunate and unending trend of journalists being assaulted by security personnel, particularly Gambia Police officers,” GPU Chairman Muhammed S. Bah said.

The GPU chairman said the incident recalls the events of June 2020, when Ebou N. Keita was arrested, detained and later released without charge for photographing police officers arresting people protesting COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

“It is also a stark reminder that while the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of the press guaranteed by the 1997 Constitution has improved considerably since 2017, there is still much to be done to better protect the rights of journalists who continue to be attacked by security forces for simply fulfilling their constitutional duty to hold the government to account,” Bah said.

The GPU called on the Gambia police to show restraint and stop using force against journalists who have an important mandate not only to hold the government to account but also to promote the public’s right to know, who is a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression. expression, access to information and the promotion of democracy and good governance.

“This afternoon, July 7, 2022, Mr. Taylor informed the GPU that he had been called by police and asked to report to the same police station where he was being held on Tuesday. He is also asked to report to the police tomorrow, July 8 at 1 p.m.,” the Press Union said in its statement.

According to the GPU, the alleged offense is considered assault under Section 230(b) of the Gambian Penal Code, which carries a penalty of two years in prison if convicted.

“We call on the police to unconditionally drop the ‘obstructing’ charge against Mr. Taylor and to end the continued harassment of the journalist by asking him to report to the Senegambia police station,” said the general secretary of the GPU, Modou S. Joof. .

“Journalists are not the enemy of the state and we believe that the principles of the Constitution can only be respected when journalists are allowed to do their job without harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests,” said Joof.

The GPU said it was determined, ready and willing to continue to engage state authorities and security sector leaders to promote an environment conducive to press freedom, particularly with regard to concerns the safety of journalists.

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