Indiana lawyer helped reporter win in Africa

Rebecca Berfanger
January 1, 2008
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A case where an African country's government was accused of kidnapping and torturing a journalist was decided on June 5 in favor of the reporter and his family.

Indianapolis attorney Dan Byron assisted the Ghana-based Media Foundation for West Africa, which filed the suit on behalf of Chief Ebrima Manneh.

Byron spent October and November in Africa and has remained in touch with the foundation's attorneys since then.

In what Byron called a "good day for human rights and press rights in West Africa" and "a solid win," this ruling marks the first such case to be heard by the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.

"The regime of President Yahya Jammeh consistently denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the journalist, and has demonstrated gross disrespect for the ECOWAS court by refusing to cooperate throughout the proceedings," according to a release from the Media Foundation of West Africa.

The decision announced that Manneh's arrest and detention was illegal, and ordered Gambian authorities to release him. The court also awarded a total of $100,000 (U.S.) in damages to Manneh, to be paid by The Gambia government.

"Media Foundation for West Africa welcomes this decision by the ECOWAS court. We therefore call on The Gambia to respect and enforce the judgment in accordance with laid down procedures," the release stated.

Indiana Lawyer first reported about Byron's involvement with the West Africa Media Foundation in the Dec. 12-23, 2007, edition, "Advancing press freedoms."

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