Dear Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Inspector-General of Police: Drop Charges’

Mamos Media

Dear Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Inspector-General of Police: Drop Charges Against Westminister Foundation For Democracy Representative in The Gambia Mr. Madi Jobarteh.
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Questions of constitutionality aside, this action further undermines the already dwindling democratic space in which freedom of expression and civil society operates in The Gambia. The arrest and arbitrary action cannot be seen as separate from the pattern of escalating threats and intimidation against Mr. Madi Jobarteh and other media entities since the previous administration of Yahya Jammeh, for reportage that the present administration has found objectionable. In solidarity with Mr. Madi Jobarteh, the Westminister Foundation for Democracy stands by the principles of free expression and the unhampered flow of critical information.
I remind citizens to uphold their right to free speech, equal protection under the law, and all governments to protect them at all times. African leaders find themselves at a crucial moment in which they can demonstrate their genuine commitment to protecting their citizens’ rights. Journalists, writers, and others should speak out and inform without fear of reprisals, especially when literature and journalism are the mirrors of our lives.
At this point under President Adama Barrow Administration, we really must ask the question of whether the affairs of the State have become so rudderless that any official of State in the Executive branch of the Government at the center can do anything without being called to Order.
The Inspector-General of Police in the Gambia, Mamour Jobe, has ordered immediate arrest over the statement Mr. Madi Jobarteh broadcast and published in a protest march authorized the Inspector General of Police on behalf representing civil society decrying police brutality in the Gambia and global. The statement was declaring him arrested states that the IGP has ordered the arrest of Mr. Jobarteh for making false statements, defamation of character, and an act capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country.
For me, this is not about Madi Jobarteh. It is about the dangerous road to a civilian dictatorship that our much raped and the abused country is, again, taking, by this action of the IGP, to kill the right to freedom of expression. I am not so much interested in what Mr. Jobarteh said or what he did not say. It is the brightness of the day that brings forth the adder. I am concerned about the role the Police are now being allowed to play in our “democracy.” The s recklessness in the Gambian Police Force of the Yahya Jammeh’s Second Republic is a terrible example that the Police Force must not re-enact.
Giving false information is a criminal offense. However, Mr. Jobarteh’ s statement was not made to the Police. It was an opinion that he and his principal have the right to make in a democracy under the rule of law. Even if President Adama Barrow were to deny the statement unequivocally, and goes ahead to lodge a criminal complaint about its falsity with the Police, that step would not, in law, make Madi Jobarteh’ s “false statement” a criminal act.
For the alleged offense of “defamation of character”, it is my view that even if Madi Jobarteh’s statement were false in every material particular. It has put words that he Mr. Jobarteh did not intend to utter in the Police’s mouth, and so the broadcast and published words allegedly are deemed to have brought the Police into public disrepute and opprobrium, the Police cannot exercise the right to sue for defamation of character ( libel ) on behalf of the Government, and the Police are not the same. They assumed false news and publication, in the circumstances, is a tort. A civil wrong. Not a criminal act.
In case the IGP is keen on improving on his scores-settling credentials and precedents with Mr. Jobarteh, by latching on to the colonial statutory relic of criminal libel or defamation, or sedition”, I hasten to enlighten that the case law in the Gambia today is that the offense of sedition against those in authority and power is unconstitutional, being a criminal offense that curtails the wholesome enjoyment of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the press.
In any case, I must ask the IGP, whose interest is he protecting? Is it the interest of President Adama Barrow? Did the statement criminally defame President Barrow? Was he? Moreover, did he give a directive that Madi Jobarteh arrested?
Is the action of the IGP overzealous to please the President, or are we to assume that a replacement for the IGP is already on the table and the IGP has to work this extra hard to dissuade consideration for his replacement?
These questions become necessary in the light of the recent unwarranted Police bestiality and police brutality in the Gambia. The similarity of the knee-jerk approach is too glaring to miss during Yahya Jammeh’s dark days. Furthermore, for the nebulous charge of committing an act that is capable of instigating public disturbance throughout the country, I am lost.
I have read a statement made by Mr. Jobarteh, issued purportedly on behalf of the protesters, and petitioned the United States ambassador in the Gambia. Using the test of “the reasonable man, “I cannot conclude that the statement is capable of instigating public disturbance in the country. That statement of the IGP was an excellent example of a speech that could cause a public disturbance. I as a result of this call for the withdrawal of the Police charge. It is offensive and undemocratic. Can our silent President call the IGP to order, please!
As a concerned Gambian, any additional information may explain these events or clarify my understanding of arresting a democracy activist in the exercise of his rights. Absent this, the facts as described raise significant due process concerns. They suggest that Mr. Jobarteh is being prosecuted in retaliation for his nonviolent exercise of the right to free expression, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which The Gambia is a party.
I respectfully urge the Gambian authorities to immediately and unconditionally dropped all charges against Mr. Jobarteh, ensure his right to publicly reaffirm The Gambia’s commitment to freedom of expression, and refrain from future retaliation against the peaceful exercise of these rights.
Alagi Yorro Jallow

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