FINANCES TO BE PROBED: Former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh

Seven international journalists planning to report on the inauguration of Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow were denied entry to the country on January 16, prompting reaction from journalist lobby group, the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“The legitimacy of the Gambian government strongly depends on the press being allowed to report on the country’s political transition,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa representative, adding: “We call on authorities to allow all journalists to freely cover events in Gambia.”

Immigration officers denied entry to four journalists from the Chinese CGTN television station, based in Nairobi, Kenya; two Swedes from the photo agency Kontinent; and a Senegalese photographer from Agence France-Presse, who had all flown in from Dakar.

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Officials questioned the journalists, who had stated their profession on a form when they arrived, before sending them back to Senegal three hours later on the grounds that they did not have accreditation.

“They said we didn’t have our accreditation although we had applied for one before travelling to the country. We were told to come and pay in person,” one of the journalists, who requested anonymity, was quoted as saying.

Gambia is experiencing a tense political transition after the outgoing president, Yahya Jammeh, refused to concede defeat in December elections.

Jammeh has declared a 90-day state of emergency, citing ‘the unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference’ in the elections, which he lost to opposition leader Adama Barrow.

The regional group, Economic Community of West African States, has pledged to uphold the election result, and said it has troops on standby should Jammeh refuse to step down.

Since the election, Gambia has expelled at least five other journalists, while two Gambian journalists, who asked to remain anonymous out of concerns for their safety, told CPJ the mood in the country is tense after the resignation of  several government ministers and the vice president. Thousands of civilians have fled Gambia, amid possible military intervention by African governments.


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