Gambian security agents force independent radio station off air

Gambia’s national security agents have this morning closed down an independent radio station Taranga FM, saying they had received “directives from above,” according to Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) reports.

Reports say officers from the Gambian National Intelligence Agency stormed the radio station in Sinchu Alhagie village, southwest of the country’s capital Banjul, and forced it to go off air.

The authorities also confiscated the station’s license and the members of its board’s contacts.

Speaking to CPJ, local journalists said they believed the closure is linked to the station’s weekly talk show, which features interviews from both the ruling party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, and opposition parties.

On Sunday, Taranga FM had aired comments made by opposition leader Omar Jallow who said: “President Yahya Jammeh had a worse human rights record than his predecessor, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, whom Jammeh deposed in a 1994 coup,” according to a statement made by CPJ.

In a March interview on state television, CPJ reports Jammeh had called the opposition leaders “dogs” over their decision to boycott that month’s parliamentary elections citing government intimidation.

In a statement, CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said: “In its assault on Taranga FM, the Gambian government has silenced an essential source of news and shown again its disregard for citizens’ right to independent information.”

“The radio station should be allowed to resume broadcasting immediately,” he said.

The country’s officials have at least twice before censored the station in retaliation to its exclusive news review program.

Early last year, just before the country’s presidential elections, the agency directed the station to stop its news review program, which broadcast news in local languages from independent English-language newspapers.

Later in July 2011, the state directed the station to do away with the program as it had generated much attention from the “mostly illiterate public.”

In the recent years, the Gambian government has shut down a number of independent media outlets, including radio stations Citizen FM, Radio 1 FM, and Sud FM and The Independent newspaper, a CPJ report indicates.

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