ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF GAMBIA FORCES PRIVATELY OWNED FM RADIO STATION TO SHUT DOWN

[1/2/17]  Popular independent Gambian radio station Taranga FM was forced off the air by national security forces Sunday afternoon.

One radio station staff member told French news agency AFP on condition of anonymity “four National Intelligence Agency operatives and one police officer in uniform came to the radio station this (Sunday) afternoon around 2:30 pm and told us to stop broadcasting.”

“They said they have been ordered by the director general of NIA, Yankuba Badjie, to tell us to stop broadcasting with immediate effect,” the staff member added. He was not given a reason why other than security was only “acting on executive orders.”

No radio staff members were arrested, according to one security source. “We only asked them to stop broadcasting and they cooperated with us. They have stopped broadcasting since in the afternoon,” the source told AFP.

An AFP correspondent said the radio station was not broadcasting on Sunday evening.

Little press freedom

Taranga FM was previously shut down by the Gambian government. The Gambia Press Union warned that Taranga FM closing may be the beginning of a crackdown against independent media outlets. Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranked Gambia 145 out of 180 countries for press freedom in 2016, saying there was a “climate of terror around anything remotely to do with journalism.” Taranga FM translates news from Gambian newspapers into local languages.

The radio station is considered critical of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who lost a December election to former real estate agent Adama Barrow. After initially accepting the results, Jammeh alleged irregularities andfiled a petition to the Supreme Court. It is due to be reviewed on January 10.

Barrow is determined to take office on January 10. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it will stage a military intervention if Jammeh does not step down by January 19. The intervention would be lead by neighboring Senegal.