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World Press Freedom Day 2020 – Portraits of Gambian Journalists

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World Press Freedom Day 2020 During Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh’s rule from 1994-2016 the Gambian press suffered mercilessly at his hands. Journalists were gunned down, disappeared, tortured, and threatened. Media houses shuttered and radio stations burned to the ground. But stalwart voices kept the flame alive, speaking truth to power. _ As part of our long-term documentation of ‘Gambia-Victims & Resisters’ of the Jammeh regime, here are some portraits of those who fell foul of regime, but kept fighting. _ 1.Lamin Fatty – Independent Newspaper, “I went through hell. It was horrible. I was electrocuted. They took me out of my cell to the backyard where they’d dig a hole, and buried me half way, and shoved a gun in my mouth and threaten to kill me”. – 2. Honorable Madi M.K Ceesay – journalist and National Assembly Member. “I was tortured twice by the Jammeh’s team with the use of wires, gun butts as well as using an electrical device…” – 3. Malick Mboob – Daily Observer, arrested in 2006 “I was beaten with sticks, military boots and they beat me mercilessly – and I was crying for help and bleeding profusely,” recalls Mboob “They eventually stopped beating me when I pretended I was dead.” – – 4. Mr Pa Modou Faal and six other journalists were arrested in 2009 by the former regime in connection to reaction press release issued by the Gambia Press Union about former President Yahya Jammeh’s remarks about the slain journalist Deyda Hydara- murdered by Jammeh’s hit squad in a drive-by shooting. – – 5. Pap Saine – The Point, In 2010, Saine was named a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute. Saine described the award as a morale-booster and "an inspiration for journalists who are fighting for freedom of the press and the interests of justice, democracy and human rights not only in the Gambia but in all of Africa". I 6. Threatening messages sent to Taranga Radio journalist , Alagie Ceesay. _ _ #Portraits4PositiveChange #worldpressfreedomday2020 #GambiaPressUnion #yahyajammeh #Jammeh2Justice #theGambia #AmnestyInternational #HumanRightsWatch #CPJ #committeetoprotectjournalists #deydahydara #westafricajournalist #reduxpictures #reduxreps

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Instagram: World Press Freedom Day – Portraits of Gambian Journalists ©Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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The Witch Hunts of 2009 – The Gambia. TRRC Digest Edition 10

‘TRRC Digest Edition 10 is out! The 10th session focused on the witch-hunt campaign ordered by Yahya Jammeh against mostly elderly men and women accused of witchcraft in The Gambia. Read the testimonies here ANEKED (African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings & Enforced Disappearances)

The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia. TRRC Digest Edition 10. Dodou Sanyang stands beside the bed of his late mother. Image © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

“Green Boys and magicians came around the village, singing, drumming, and dancing, and targeted NRP (UDP) opposition party members” Doudou Sanyang

The Witch Hunts of 2009 – The Gambia. Dodou Sanyang, in the room of his recently deceased mother, Naa Joni Sonko. She was one of over a thousand elderly people abducted on the order of the former president, Yahya Jammeh. Groups of Jammeh’s paramilitary troops along with his youth brigade, The Green Boys, and ‘magicians’ from Guinea, went from village to village as part of a nationwide hunt for witches.

The alleged witches were held for up to five days in secret locations and made to drink ‘Kubehjaro’, a hallucinogenic substance, and then forced to confess to witchcraft. Some were also severely beaten, and robbed by their captors. Some died at the detention sites, and others like Sanyang’s mother suffered years of illness before dying. Many in Sanyang’s village believe the elderly there were not targeted for witchcraft, but because the village had been an opposition stronghold – Essau, Northbank Division, The Gambia.

The Gambia - a female victim of the 2009 witch huntsTRRC Digest Edition #10 - Portraits © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio, taken from the on-going 'Gambia - victims, and resisters'
The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia – Portraits © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio, taken from the on-going ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series
Portrait of Sankung Balajo - victims of President Yahya Jammeh's witch hunts, The Gambia, in 2009 © Jason Florio
The Witch Hunts of 2009, The Gambia – Sankung Balajo, one of over one thousand elders abducted on the orders of then-President, Yahya Jammeh.. © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

“I was kept for five days. When they forced me to take the medicine (‘Kubehjaro’ a hallucinogenic substance), I could no longer stand up… I fell down on the ground… ” Sankung Balajo

See more of the portraits, used in the past and present TRRC Digest Editions, taken from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ on-going multimedia series – a collaboration between Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Photography exhibition opening night at the National Centre for Arts and Culture, Banjul. Portraits ©Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio Gambia-victims, and resisters, Portraits to Remember
Opening night of ‘The Duty to Remember’ exhibition at the National Centre for Arts & Culture, Banjul, The Gambia. A collaboration with ANEKED. Portraits on display ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio. Exhibition Image ©Jason Florio

Current Location: May 2020 – on lockdown in the UK

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In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place’

In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place‘ – we arrived in the UK just over a month ago, for a short break from our assignments in The Gambia, West Africa. We had intended to head to the small island of Malta, which we have called our other home for the past five years. After this, we planned to return to The Gambia to continue our projects.

However, the days following our return to the UK Malta closed its airport, soon followed by The Gambia. So, we find ourselves grounded, literally, here in the UK at my mother’s house – waiting for the skies to open again. In the meantime, I watch her English country garden slowly break bud and bloom, and Helen as the light finds her in our roost above the barn – whilst, all the time wildly conscious of the struggle around us, the fight for life… Jason Florio

Our niece, who is isolating with her family, keeping her social distance, but echoing her uncle with her camera ©Jason Florio April 2020

In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place’

My Mum, who is self-isolating, wearing a mask outside and keeping her social distance (her dog. Space, is in the background) ©Jason Florio April 2020

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Helen, with ‘Space’ dog ©Jason Florio

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Location: April 2020 – Currently, physical-distancing in the UK

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In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place‘ - photojournalist Jason Florio, standing with his mum's dog, 'Space'. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio, April 2020
In isolation between a ‘Rock and a Hot Place‘ – photographer, Jason Florio, with his mum’s dog, ‘Space’. Image ©Helen Jones-Florio, April 2020

Location: April 2020 – Currently, physical-distancing in the UK

Assignment queries and image licensing – Contact here

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New work from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

New work from our long form multi-media project –‘The Gambia – Victims, and Resisters’: The family of Lt Ebou Lowe. Ebou was disappeared and executed by members former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh’s hit squad, the ‘Junglers’, after he was accused of being part of a coup attempt in 2006 to overthrow the dictatorial Jammeh regime.

#Portraits4PositiveChange

New work from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series: LT. Ebou Lowe’s daughter, Amie Lowe ©Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Ebou Lowe’s daughter, Amie Lowe, photographed in her father’s room, left unchanged since he was disappeared in 2006 – “I grew up not knowing the love of a father. I was only three years old when he disappeared, so I don’t remember him. I only know him through what people have told me, that he was a good man, and some say he was a hero.

New work from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series: LT. Ebou Lowe’s mother, Jarra Tambadou ©Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

New work from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series: LT. Ebou Lowe’s sister, Zainab Lowe-Baldeh ©Jason Florio / Helen Jones-Florio

Ebou Lowe’s sister, Zainab Lowe-Baldeh – “The road to justice is a long one for us but we hang tight. Ebou Lowe was a pillar to the family and a father of four, and was taken without a trace…knowing what has happened from the Truth Commission (TRRC) feels like a needle in a haystack.” Zainab is the co-founder of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human-Rights Violations – a victim support group, now with over one thousand registered members.

The Duty to Remember’ a Memorialisation Project and Photography exhibition, The Gambia – portraits ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio from ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ of the Yahya Jammeh regime, The Gambia, West Africa, in collaboration with ANEKED

The exhibition runs through March 24th, 2020, at the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC museum gardens), Banjul. It is free and open to all. Please visit the museum website for opening hours. A selection of portraits, from the ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ series are being exhibited, in a collaboration with ANEKED (African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances) NGO.

The Photographer, and the Producer – Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, respectively. Image courtesy Joanna Demarco

See more of Jason Florio’s documentary film work on his website

March 2020 – Currently in The Gambia, West Africa

Assignment queries and image licensing – Contact here

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Jason Florio – Vimeo / Motion

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