Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 13:39 UK

Gambia media jail terms 'unjust'

President Yahya Jammeh
President Yahya Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994

A media watchdog has criticised two-year jail terms handed down to six Gambian journalists for publishing a statement criticising the president.

They were found guilty of six counts of defamation and sedition.

The journalists had questioned Yahya Jammeh's declaration the government was not responsible for the 2004 death of prominent journalist Deyda Hydara.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the sentencing reflected a "partisan judicial system".

"President Jammeh has managed to nail the coffin shut for press freedom in The Gambia," CPJ's Tom Rhodes said in a statement.

A poster saying: "Who killed Deyda Hydara?"
Deyda Hydara was a vocal critic of draconian media laws

The head of The Gambia Press Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, told the BBC she was "shocked" by the harsh outcome of the trial.

Mr Hydara, a vocal critic of strict media laws, was gunned down but nobody was charged with his murder.

Since then the privately owned newspaper he edited, The Point, has incorporated into its masthead his photo, with the question: "Who killed Deyda Hydara?"

It is three years since another prominent journalist Chief Ebrima Manney went missing.

President Yahya Jammeh came to power through a coup in 1994 and has won three multi-party elections since then.

But amid claims of plots to oust him, dozens of people have been arrested and unlawfully detained, human rights groups say.

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