Binta Bah and Sainey Marenah from the Daily News and Standard respectively were prevented from attending the court proceeding by plain clothes security officers who claimed the order to stop them had emanated from the Office of the President.
The duo said “we were told by a plain clothes officer (a member of national intelligence agency) that since our media houses are closed – no more publishing - we should not cover the case anymore.”
However, Binta was let in after telling the officer that she was a blogger as well so will use her blog to publish the story.
“I was later let in but after about 15 minutes I was told by the state security agent that the director of press at the State House, Modou Saidy, said he was not aware of my blog because my blog is not registered so I should not cover the case as my paper is no longer publishing” Ms Bah explained.
“The officer said they operate on directives and he is given a directive that we are not allow to cover the case anymore. ‘Sorry but you have to go out, he officer told me’,” Binta added.
The case was a public hearing and relatives and other sympathizers of the alleged criminals were in the court as well as some other journalists who were covering it.
Efforts to contact director of press at the State House, Modou Saidy, proved futile.
Mr Marenah and Ms Bah have being covering the case since it started in 2010.
In March 2010, journalists from the independent press have been denied entry by state security agents to cover the State Opening of the National Assembly despite having official accreditation.
The Standard and Daily News were on September 14, 2012 ordered to stop publication by a “directive from the Office of the President” through the operatives of the notorious NIA.
There was no formal note ordering the closure. The newspapers have since halted operations awaiting more information about the order.
This incident comes immediately after the inexplicable closure of Taranga FM, a community radio station on August 14, 2012 by the NIA.
Article 19, an international human rights organization, has expressed concern about the continuous violations of the right to freedom of expression in The Gambia, in particular the lack of media independence and daily harassment, arbitrary arrests and violence against journalists.
The former chief of defence staff, Lang Tombong Tamba, and six others were sentenced to death on two counts of conspiracy to commit treason, and treason by the High Court in Banjul, presided over by Justice Emmanuel A. Amadi on the 15 July 2010.
They filed a notice of appeal against the decision of the High Court to the Gambia Court of Appeal. However, the Gambia Court of Appeal dismissed the said appeal, prompting the appellants to now seek redress in the country’s highest court, the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
On Monday, the Supreme Court is to hear the submissions of the appellants counsel and the state counsel that they have filed their respective briefs of arguments before the said court.