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A month later I was arrested again when The Independent published a story with news that the vice president had remarried.The government was embarrassed by the story because after a spouse dies it is customary for a person to wait one year before remarrying.Many have also left the country, as some of its leading journalists have sought political asylum in Europe and the United States. Jawo, then-president of the Gambia Press Union, received an anonymous threat at his house that referred to critical reporting by Jawo and other members of the independent press against President Jammeh and his government.In June 2004, officers arrested and detained me for three hours without charge, allegedly for publishing a story that two persons were killed in a Gambia-Senegal border clash following a violent football match between the two countries. The letter promised to teach "one of your journalists a very good lesson." Three days later, unidentified persons set on fire the house of BBC stringer Ebrima Sillah, but he escaped unharmed.Because the country had few private media outlets, a change of ownership — and subsequently a change in its approach to news reporting — at the Daily Observer, one of the nation’s bigger papers, narrowed the outlets for independent newsgathering still further.Against this backdrop, I started a biweekly called The Independent, which hit newsstands in July 1999 and soon became the fastest growing newspaper in readership and popularity.(In July, the BBC in London had received a letter that accused Sillah of biased reporting against Jammeh and threatened an attack on him.) President Jammeh’s hostility towards journalists is what pushed members of Parliament to find ways to muzzle the press.
In October 2003, The Independent’s premises were set on fire for the first time, and the newsroom was partly destroyed.We partnered with the Gambia Press Union to challenge it and hired a lawyer to contest the legislation.