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GAMBIA: DROP CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST BAKARY MANKAJANG

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I hereby call on the IGP to immediately release and drop all charges against citizen journalist Bakary Mankajang. The actions of Mankajang to interview witnesses does not interfere with or obstruct police investigations into the September 12 fatal shooting of PIU officers. Hence the police must not drag itself into actions that con only derail and undermine their work.

It is perfectly within journalistic work for journalists to interview victims and alleged perpetrators and their families, colleagues, neighbors, bystanders and acquaintances. This action does not in any way conflict with police investigations. Witnesses are not the property of the police such that no one should talk to them. And by talking to witnesses, journalists even help the police to gain better understanding of the factors and actors in an incident. Above all, not every witness is a subject of police investigation.

Therefore the arrest and charges against Mankajang is unlawful, counterproductive and unprofessional. It is merely an intimidation of the journalist and the media as a whole, as well threatening witnesses themselves. It is an act of weaponizing laws and institutions purposely to infringe on rights. The police has no authority to deny witnesses from talking to the media and anybody for that matter. Doing so is to suppress the freedoms of witnesses. There is no law that says a crime witness cannot talk to a journalist about what he or she saw or knows.

The IGP must be therefore advised to act with professionalism and conduct his functions in line with the law at all times. That is what will help the police to diligently solve issues and gain public trust and confidence. By arresting journalists, denying suspects their rights and threatening witnesses can only undermine not only public trust in the police but also undermine the integrity of their investigations hence undermine the course and objective of justice.

Bakary Mankajang has a right to conduct his work as a citizen journalist including interviewing crime witnesses without fetters. Free him and drop all charges!!!

For The Gambia Our Homeland

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