Gambian authorities should immediately release Fatou Camara, a journalist who has been held incommunicado since September 17, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The government has not disclosed Camara’s whereabouts or any charges against her, according to news reports.
Camara, a broadcast journalist and TV host of the popular “Fatou Show,” a weekly current affairs show that airs on the state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services, was arrested by agents from the National Intelligence Agency on September 15 and released on September 17, according to news reports. She was re-arrested hours later in front of her children and has not been heard from since, local journalists told CPJ.
Camara’s detention runs counter to the Gambian constitution, which allows only a detention period of 72 hours without charge.
“Fatou Camara’s continued illegal detention without charge for over two weeks now violates the constitution President Yahya Jammeh swore to uphold,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ’s West Africa consultant. “The authorities must explain why they are holding her, or she must be released immediately.”
News reports said that Camara is being investigated on accusations of “espionage and breach of national security.” The reports said that her arrest was linked to allegations that she was “passing information to the international media” that was critical of Jammeh.
In August, Camara was removed from her role as the president’s director of press and public relations. Jammeh had appointed her in May.
When Camara was initially detained, NIA agents ordered Camara to open her email and Facebook accounts so they could search for evidence against her, according to news reports citing the journalist’s family.
Camara’s family members told CPJ that Jammeh had ignored recommendations from the NIA that the journalist be released. The NIA said they did not find any incriminating evidence against her during their investigation, according to the family.
Gambia Information Minister Nana Grey Johnson did not immediately respond to CPJ’s calls and emails seeking comment. CPJ’s messages left at the president’s office were not immediately returned.