Pap Saine, the managing editor of the daily The Point and Gambian correspondent for Thomson-Reuters, “was rushed to hospital on Wednesday after he collapsed in his prison cell,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Media watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF – Reporters Without Borders) expressed concern in a statement Thursday about Saine’s heart condition and said he had lost consciousness at one point in the court case.
“He needs to have a pacemaker inserted in his chest but the operation cannot be performed in Gambia and the authorities have prevented his repeated attempts to travel to Senegal for the operation,” the RSF statement said.
The organisation also expressed concern for the only woman among the six, who have all been sentenced to two years in prison for publishing a statement critical of Jammeh in a case that has led to international protests.
Sarrata Jabbi-Dibba is a nursing mother with a seven-month-old baby whom she was breast-feeding, but on August 8, “prison guards took advantage of what they said would be a routine medical examination to take the baby from her,” RSF said in the statement.
“They then promised she would be able to see the baby at least twice a day, but it is now with the Gambian child services at Bakoteh, 20 kilometres (about 12 miles) outside the capital…”
Jabbi-Dibba has thus not seen her child since August 8, it said.
The journalists are being held in the Mile Two prison in Banjul, after being convicted for a statement that criticised Jammeh after he told state television that the government had “no stake” in the 2004 murder of investigative journalist Deyda Hydara.
Jammeh instead suggested that Hydara’s love life had led to his murder by unidentified gunmen, but the papers carried a Gambia Press Union statement protesting at provocative remarks and character assassination.
Hydara, the editor and co-founder of The Point and the Gambia correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP), was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of Banjul on December 16, 2004.
The authoritarian Jammeh has ruled Gambia for 15 years.