BANJUL: Journalists in The Gambia urged the country's new leadership on Tuesday to uphold its pledge to respect media freedom following a violent assault on a reporter by supporters of President Adama Barrow.
Kebba Jeffang, a journalist for Foroyaa newspaper, described being 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 earlier this year from Yahya Jammeh, whose authoritarian 22-year rule was marked by arrests and intimidation of reporters.
"We condemn the attack on Kebba Jeffang and call on the leaders of the three political parties to take appropriate action to address this matter," said Gambia Press Union Secretary General Saikou Jammeh.
Describing "an attack on freedom of expression, particularly media freedom," Jammeh added the supporters' actions were illegal and had "no place in a democratic society."
Madi Jobarteh, who writes for the popular Gambian blog platform Fatu Network, said the violence was "utterly unacceptable and totally unbecoming of the new Gambia we wish to build."
Eyewitnesses said Jeffang was attacked for asking pointed questions to the ministers about whether their parties would continue to maintain their coalition in The Gambia's upcoming legislative elections.
"The journalist's only 'offence' is to ask questions to Ousainou Darboe and Mai Ahmad Fatty, the respective leaders of United Democratic Party (UDP) and Gambia Moral Congress (GMC)," said Amadou Bojang, who saw the attack take place.
Darboe is The Gambia's foreign minister while Fatty currently serves as interior minister.
Members of UDP, GMC as well as the National Reconciliation Party -- all member parties of the coalition that brought Barrow to power -- are alleged to have taken part in the attack.
Barrow had been a member of the UDP until he resigned to stand as the coalition candidate in a December election that unseated President Jammeh from power.