REPORTER STILL DENIED ACCESS TO COURT-MARTIAL

By Kebba Jeffang
Following the repeated attempts by this reporter to cover the
proceedings of the court martial involving military personnel in order
to inform the public on the charges and proceedings, a military guardtold this reporter that he is not instructed to allow the press to
give  coverage to the trial  currently taking place at the Fajara
Barracks.
This was on Friday, 20th February, 2014 when this reporter
tried to enter the building in which the court martial is being held
but was prevented by two armed military guards at the entrance.
“What do you want?” asked one of them.
“I am a reporter from Foroyaa Newspaper. I want to cover the
proceedings of the court martial,” was the reporter’s reply.
“It is not open to the press,” said the soldier.
When asked why, he responded that the press cannot enter.
In one of the previous attempts to cover the court martial, this
reporter was also prevented by a soldier at the gate who said they
were not informed by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Gambia
Armed Forces (GAF) about the presence of the media. However, attempts
to contact the PRO on phone were not successful. When this reporter
visited the GAF headquarters in Banjul, he was told that the PRO was
out of town and could not be reached.
A letter has been addressed to the defence headquarters indicating the
public interest in the court martial and the desirability for the media to
cover and report on the proceedings in the interest of public
accountability. A response is yet to be received from headquarters.
EDITOR’S NOTE
Effort will be made to get a response to know if this barring of media
coverage is a policy or an initiative of a guard waiting for
instructions.  Needless to say, both the Constitution and the Armed
Forces Act make it clear that, under normal circumstances, a
court-martial should take place in open court.