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Gambian court hands editor stiff fine or six months in jail

A Gambian court on Thursday fined a newspaper editor 2,500 euros ($3,100) or six months in jail with hard labour for contempt of court.

Abdulhamid Adiamoh, a Nigerian citizen and editor of the Today newspaper, was arrested a week ago and held in custody for allegedly criticising a lawyer in a case involving the vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia.

"Court reporting is sacrosanct and should not be taken as a matter of joke," Magistrate Taiwo Alagbe told the court.

Adiamoh published an article titled "Counsel sidesteps issues in cross-examination of Vice Chancellor of the University of the Gambia" in which he questioned the lawyer's move to challenge the vice chancellor's professorship.

Gambia's media laws are extremely tough and have prompted stiff rebukes from rights bodies. A 2010 Amnesty report stated that a government crackdown on press freedom had seen about 29 journalists flee the country since 1994.

During his re-election in November last year, President Yahya Jammeh said journalists are "free to write what you like, but you should be ready to be accountable.

"Somebody said that this country is a hell for journalists, well there are freedoms and there are responsibilities. Being a journalist does not mean license to kill. Character assassination will not be accepted."

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