Nothing cries “guilt!” more than the sentencing of journalists to two years jail time following a report on the unsolved murder of a fellow journalist:
Six journalists were convicted last Thursday on six counts of sedition and defamation and each sentenced to two years prison sentence and heavy fines ($20,000).
The journalists were arrested on 15 June after reprinting a press release from the Gambian Press Union that denounced comments made on national television by President Yahya Jammeh about the unsolved murder of veteran Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara. [Source]
Among the journalists sentenced is Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, who gave birth seven months ago and currently confronts the dilemma of being separated from her son or passing the first two years of his life in an environment utterly unfit for a baby.
The sentencing has prompted outrage not only on grounds of censorship, but also from women’s rights activists.
Issuing a statement on behalf of the Women’s Rights Movement of the Gambia, executive director Dr Isatou Touray emphasized the needs of the mother and child:
The baby is completely innocent of the circumstances for which his mother is serving the sentence. We are of the opinion that the baby’s tender age requires that he be with his mother at all times, as no other person or institution can assume her role and responsibilities towards him. In the light of this, we urge you to prevail in this matter with urgency, taking into consideration your government’s commitment to uphold the basic principles of human rights and respecting the conventions, constitution and policies it has ratified.
On 16 December 2004, Hydara was killed in his car by two unknown gunmen; while the perpetrators have never been caught, it has been suggested that the Jammeh government played a significant role.
It’s boggling that such government’s have not realized that slaughtering and incarcerating journalists does not resolve their problems – it only serves to amplify suspicion and often confirm previously held suppositions.