Gambia’s popular radio station, Teranga FM, was taken off air on Saturday by the much feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Jollof News reported on Monday, as Yahya Jammeh’s security apparatus continues its massive crackdown on opposition politicians, activists and the critical media.
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has confirmed that the station has been ordered to stop broadcasting with immediate effect, the online publication added. Teranga FM, which is managed by exiled journalist Alagie Ceesay, has been targeted several times by the Jammeh’s administration.
Ceesay, who lives in Senegal after escaping from jail in April 2016, was arrested in July 2015 on charges of sedition and publication of false news. The journalist was held incommunicado for 11 days in an undisclosed location and released afterwards. However, he was re-arrested four days later by the NIA, jailed for nine months and denied bail. He escaped in mid-April 2016.
Though the intelligence agency did not provide any reasons for the shutdown, many observers believe Teranga FM, which translates news from English into local languages, has been heavily criticising Jammeh’s refusal to step down after losing the presidential elections to former security guard Adama Barrow.
Barrow, a novice in politics, is due to be sworn-in on January 19, despite Jammeh’s refusal to go home peacefully.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has reportedly put regional troops on high alert as it plans a military intervention to force Jammeh out of power. If caught alive, Jammeh could be turned over the International Criminal Court (ICC) for massive human rights abuse and crimes against humanity. Barrow said his adminstration would cancel Jammeh’s decision to withdraw Gambia from the ICC.
Jammeh, a dictator who ruled the impoverished tiny country for 22 years, has vowed to defend Gambia against any military invasion. “Let me make very clear, we are ready to defend this country against any aggression,” he said during a New Year’s Day message broadcast on TV.
“What we are simply and rightfully asking for is to return to the polls and allow the Gambians to elect who they want to be their president in a free and fair election.”
Photo: Gambia former President Yahya Jammeh.