Two private radio stations have been closed in The Gambia on Sunday, Freedom Newspaper can report. The Serrekunda based King FM station, and the Brikama home FM have been shutdown by the government. This followed the three years jotna protest march, which later turned violent. Many were reported injured, properties burnt to the ground, and the leaders of the protest march arrested.
The manager of the King FM radio station Gibril Jallow has been arrested together with four of his station’s staffers: Lamin Sanyang, Ebrima Jatta, and Kebba Camara. Jallow and his colleagues are currently held at the Bundung police station. They have been accused of inciting violence.
A new based Gambian Alhagie Secka is the owner of King FM. Secka told this medium in an interview that the actions of the police to close his station was unlawful. He said his station was never involved in any form of incitement of violence.
“They have decided to use force to illegally close my radio station. There is no justification for their move. I have contacted the Inspector General of police Mamout Jobe to express my concern on the current state of affairs. I told him that it was wrong for his men to close my station. That, their action would cause an economic hardship to workers employed at that station. I opened this radio to help my people. Gambians have rights to speak up against the government. No one has the right to muzzle dissent and free speech,” Secka said.
“Police brutality is a reality in The Gambia. I am victim of police brutality. I was falsely arrested during one of my visits to The Gambia. The police said it was wrong for my neighbors to beat a thief, who broke into my bedroom. My money and properties were stolen, and yet they decided to arrest me,” he said.
“ I pay taxes to the state. There are seventeen people working in that station. I am contributing my quota to national development. Instead of encouraging us to invest in this country, they are resorting to kill private investment. If my station is closed, it wouldn’t reduce nothing from me. I am doing good. It is going to affect Gambians,” he added.
In Brikama, the manager of the Home FM radio Pa Modou Bojang has also been arrested. Bojang and his station have been accused inciting violence.
The three years jotna is a movement that is calling for the resignation of President Adama Barrow. The group wants Barrow to honor his promise of running a three-year transitional government.
The protest, which started in the early hours of Sunday morning, later turned violent. Personnel of the police intervention unit had fired teargas at the protesters to disperse the crowd. Tires were burnt, as protesters pushed and pulled with the police. Some protesters sustained injuries during the disturbances and were rushed to the hospital for medical treatment.
A Gambian police chief Muhammed Kanteh said he had to leave his place of deployment in Brikama to see his injured brothers. He said two of his brothers were stabbed with a knife.
“I am here to sympathize with my brothers,” he said. Kanteh claimed that he was no scared to be fired. He has condemned the mistreatment meted out to his brothers.
“ I provided a safehouse for President Barrow during the 2016 political impasse. I am here to sympathize with the injured protesters. They were issued a police officer permit to organize a legal protest. They acted in accordance with the dictates of the law,” he said.
The local press covering the protest said they came under attack while executing their duties. The police fired teargas at them.
The police have restored calm in the area. Notwithstanding, there is an environment of uncertainty in The Gambia as we file this report.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General police has revoked the protest permit he issued to the three years jotna protesters. The IGP had also called on the protesters to disperse.