The Gambia Press Union (GPU) hereby condemns in the strongest terms the assault on journalist Pa Modou Bojang by personnel of Police Intervention Unit (PIU) at Faraba Banta village, Kombo East.
Chaos erupted in the village Monday morning when the villagers clashed with police over mining activities by a private company. Two people were allegedly shot and killed by PIU personnel, while injuring many others.
Journalist Bojang went to the scene in the morning for news coverage when he came under attack. He said he was physically assaulted before he was arrested and taken under six hours of detention at Brikama Police Station.
“I arrived at the scene in the morning. There was no police around at the time. I did my interviews and gathered my facts. While on that, I saw speeding police truck towards the village. The PIU personnel started firing bullets. I ran for cover.
“One of the personnel found me. I identified myself as a journalist. He advised me to stay safe. One of the villagers was shot in the leg. I witnessed it but didn’t take pictures.
“One of the police personnel came from behind and asked what I was doing there. He slapped me in the face the moment I told him I am a journalist. He directed ‘your mother’ insults towards me and told me ‘you journalists have destroyed this country and if Yaya Jammeh were here, we would have killed all of you’.
“I told them that I underwent a heart surgery; that I have a pacemaker on me. But the beating became even more brutal as more personnel joined him in beating me. I got injured in my head and gum as well as other parts of my body. I could have died. I am lucky to be alive.”
Journalist Bojang was released from detention at about 6pm without charge. He however could not recover his audio recorder from the police. He will undergo a medical checkup to determine the extent and complications of his injury.
The Gambia Press Union has made efforts to speak to the Public Relations Officer of the Gambia Police Force but he was out of reach.
The GPU is deeply concerned by the trend of attack on journalists on duty in recent times. The GPU therefore calls on the Barrow administration to launch a full investigation into this matter.
The GPU Secretary General, Saikou Jammeh, said: “Enough is enough. These attacks are a step backwards for press freedom in The Gambia. We will take all measures appropriate and necessary to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack face justice and the journalist is rewarded for damages.”
The GPU is committed, ready and willing to continue engaging state authorities with a view to promoting an enabling environment for press freedom, especially with regards to the safety of journalists.