Amnesty International has petitioned Gambian President Adama Barrow over his public comments on civil society activist leader Madi Jobarteh.

In a petition published below, AI’s New Media Manager for West and Central Africa described President Barrow’s remarks about Mr. Jobarteh as “alarming.

His Excellency President Barrow,

I am writing to you to express my grave concern for the safety of human rights defender Madi Jobarteh, following your televised statement on 2 May in front of Banjul Muslim Elders at the State House.

It was alarming to see that during your speech, you accused Madi Jobarteh of being a “troublemaker” who wants to bring violence and burn down the country, and the media of being irresponsible for serving as a platform to Madi Jobarteh. In a society guaranteeing human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, such baseless attacks and accusations against human rights defenders and the media raise serious concern.

I fear that not only has your recent statement stigmatised Madi Jobarteh’s peaceful activism, but dangerously exacerbated the risks he faces in his personal and professional life, making him the target of threats, harassment and criminalization. In fact, Madi Jobarteh has already been threatened online since your accusations and he faces a real risk of further harassment and physical attacks. As you may know, there have been several incidents of journalists assaulted by supporters of political parties over the past few years, and your comments on Madi Jobarteh and the media risk adding fuel to the fire.

As I am sure you will agree, human rights defenders play an essential role in standing up for freedom, opposing discrimination, repression, corruption and promoting social justice across West and Central Africa. Yet, instead of being celebrated, many face the risk of threats, harassment and physical violence by security forces and private actors.

Therefore, I urge you to:
–          Ensure the security of human rights defender Madi Jobarteh and ensure he can exercise his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Gambian Constitution;
–          Refrain from using language and sentiment that would stigmatise, and therefore endanger, human rights defenders and supportive media outlets;
–          Promote the role of human rights defenders and the media in defending human rights and freedom of expression by taking effective measures to ensure that all human rights defenders can carry out their peaceful activities without fear of hindrance, intimidation, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Yours sincerely,

Ousmane DRABO, the new Media Manager at Amnesty’s West and Central Africa office.

Ends

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