President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambian has shut Paradise FM, the fourth radio station to be closed since last week as pressure mounts on him to concede defeat.
The Paradise FM was closed on orders allegedly given by the Communication and Information Ministry, Presenter Andrew Gibba said.
The closure came hours after Paradise FM had interviewed a spokesman of a coalition backing president-elect Adama Barrow, to whom President Yahya Jammeh has refused to cede power after losing the Dec. 1 election.
The closure followed those of Teranga FM, Hilltop FM and Afri Radio.
The authorities have not given an explanation for any of the closures.
The Gambia Press Union has expressed concern that the closures could signal a crackdown on independent media amid the country’s escalating political crisis.
Barrow has said he would take power on Jan. 19 as mandated by the constitution, despite Jammeh having challenged the election results in court.
After more than two decades in power, Jammeh, 51, lost the election to Barrow, a former real estate agent who was little known even in Gambia before he announced his candidacy.
West African leaders were due to meet in Abuja today to discuss the crisis.
Leaders from four West African countries have started an emergency meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on how to avoid violence and preserving democracy in The Gambia.
The meeting in Abuja follows the one in Accra on the sidelines of the inauguration of President Nana Akufo-Addo.
The Presidents of Liberia and Senegal, the Vice President of Sierra-Leone and ex-President Mahama are expected at the meeting.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said the Abuja talks will discuss further steps to be taken.
“There are some disturbing information the (Nigerian) president (Muhammadu Buhari) is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating.
The West African leaders at the Accra meeting expressed the readiness of the region to continue the pursuit of dialogue with the leaders of The Gambia.
At the last ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, President Buhari, and the former President of Ghana, John Mahama were appointed as Mediator and Co-Mediator to resolve the political impasse.
They were also been mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure the safety of the President-elect, Adama Barrow and ensure a peaceful handover of power on January 19.
After the meeting in Accra, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the regional bloc does not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in Gambia.
“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia … we will continue to pursue that for now,” Sirleaf, who chairs the 15-member body, said.
Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in Gambia’s Supreme Court where President Yahya Jammeh is challenging the poll result.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the top U.N. official in West Africa, also attended the closed-door meeting, which was the first official engagement by Ghana’s new President Nana Akufo-Addo who was sworn in on Saturday.