Banjul, Gambia, Mar 9 – Gambian police have launched an investigation into a violent public assault of a reporter by supporters of President Adama Barrow, a police source told AFP Wednesday.
Journalist Kebba Jeffang was hit, scratched and insulted at a press conference on Sunday held by ministers from three parties who joined together to form Barrow’s new coalition government.
Barrow has made press freedom a pillar of his reforms since taking power this year from Yahya Jammeh, whose authoritarian 22-year rule was marked by arrests and intimidation of reporters.
“We have received a criminal complaint from Kebba Jeffang and a file is opened for the case,” the police source said.
“His witnesses who accompanied him to the station have written down their statements. We will look into the matter.”
Witnesses said Jeffang was attacked for asking questions about whether the parties would maintain their coalition in upcoming legislative polls, a thorny topic just a month before the vote.
Video footage of the attack on Jeffang, who works for the Foroyaa newspaper, went viral.
Press union leaders called on interior minister Mai Fatty, one of those present, to help the police in identifying the perpetrators.
Barrow had been a member of the United Democratic Party (UDP) until he resigned to stand in a December election that unseated President Jammeh from power.
He won largely because the broad backing of every Gambian opposition party except one, but it is now unclear whether the parties who joined him will run again as a coalition on April 6.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the attack in a statement Wednesday.
“The attack, perpetuated by parties who form part of the government that promised a new dawn of freedom for the press corps in The Gambia, is a violation of constitutional provisions that guarantee the freedom and independence of the media,” it said.