A Foroyaa Newspaper reporter Kebba Jephang, was manhandled by supporters of the main opposition United Democratic party (UDP) during a news conference organized by the party’s leader Ousainou Darboe, who happens to be Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister. Mr. Jephang, did not only sustained injuries, his shirt was also battered apart. He was accused of insulting the UDP leader, a charge he vehemently denied.
This followed questions fired by Mr. Jephang to Mr. Darboe to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the opposition split ahead of the April polls. He also asked the GMC leader and Interior Minister Mai Fatty, to justify his recent declaration that the opposition cannot contest the elections as a coalition. Fatty had earlier argued that such a move would have some far legal ramifications on the opposition. Hence, the Foroyaa reporter wanted him to further elaborate on his position on the issue.
Mr. Jephang’s line of questioning doesn’t seems to go down well with the opposition supporters. He was booed and harassed in the presence of Ousainou Darboe, Mai Fatty, and Hamat Bah. There was no formal denunciation coming from the leaders present at the news conference.
As soon as Mr. Jephang, emerged from the press conference, he was confronted by a hostile mob. He was accosted and physically assaulted. The helpless reporter tried to explain to the raging opposition supporters that he never insulted their leader Ousainou Darboe, as alleged, but he was beaten up. Marks of injuries was evident around his neck. His shirt was ruffled apart.
Speaking to Freedom Radio Gambia, Sulayman Bah, a Gambian journalist and PDOIS supporter vehemently denounced the conduct of the UDP supporters. Mr. Bah said what happens to the Foroyaa reporter, was a clear act of aggression against the press.
“ Mr. Jephang, never insulted Mr. Darboe, as alleged by his supporters. He merely asked pertain journalistic questions. The Darboe supporters decided to harass, intimidate, and assault him physically. Their conduct is reprehensible. Unfortunately, Ousainou Darboe, never denounce their illegal conduct. Mr. Jephang, was bullied in the presence of Darboe, before he was assaulted,” said Mr. Bah.
“I expect any responsible leader to denounce such acts. None of the leaders present at the press conference implored on their supporters to keep the peace. The UDP is now becoming a party of bullies. They have started cracking down on the media. I remember Mr. Jephang asked president Barrow to state his position on the issue of gay and lesbian rights, and Barrow snapped at him. Hamat Bah also joined the fray by shouting at the reporter. Bah complimented the president as soon as he downplayed the reporter’s question. This is not the type of Gambia we want. The media should be free to ask questions and report on issues of public interest,” he added.
Mr. Ebrima Dibba, a UDP supporter based in Seattle Washington, said he was not privy to the facts of the alleged incident. But he stated that his party will not condone an attack against the media.
“I am not sure if the account being given is factual or not. But rest assured that the UDP will not condone harassment against the media. Ousainou Darboe, is a law-abiding citizen. He will never condone such an act. We need to further investigate the matter before rushing to conclusion. I witnessed Darboe asking the police to detain a disorderly opposition supporter at the airport. Mr. Darboe will rather defend and preserve the law than breaking it,” he said.