Alieu Badara Sowe, a former reporter of The Point and later The Daily Observer, told the Truth Commission on Monday that he was arrested 5 times between 1995 to 1999. The Commission is on the third week of its institutional hearing on the media.
While working for The Observer, Sowe said he authored a story on a reported shooting incident in Kanilai. This was in 1999. He claimed there was a Senegalese helicopter that came on a surveillance mission beyond the border into the Gambian territory and the soldiers fired at the helicopter.
But while that made its way into the news, Sowe said he had in his original copy that during the shooting the former President Yahya Jammeh had ran to hide. But this part was never published.
When he came to work on a day following the publication, he learned that he was wanted at the office of the National Intelligence Agency and that his former boss Sheriff Bojang, the owner of The Standard newspaper, was already arrested.
Sowe said the NIA agents would later confided in him that if not for the maturity of Bojang, his ‘reckless’ writing would have made its way into the newspaper.
He said Sheriff spent a day at NIA but he was released 5 days later.
“They came and stripped me naked… They took me into a room of about 1.5 by 2 meters. And inside, there were splatters of blood on the floor. The stench is like dead flesh. I was expected to sleep on the damn floor,” said Sowe about his detention condition at NIA.
“They have a particular problem with a paragraph which said that there was a shooting and Yahya Jammeh ran and hide. They thought I was making Yahya Jammeh look like a coward. But this paragraph was never published but Sheriff gave it to them… It was only Sheriff who got that original copy.”
Sowe said his guess was that Sheriff was scared. Unlike many, Sowe said he was never physically tortured.
“On the third day, they offered me to work for them. They said they wanted me to work as an undercover and still keep my job and I told them no,” added Sowe.
Sowe would be sacked from his position at The Observer in 2000, after which he went into self-imposed exile in United Kingdom.