Gambian police arrested a newspaper editor and a reporter on Monday over an article about politicians deserting the ruling party, a security source and his staff told AFP.

Liberian national Musa Sheriff, who owns and publishes the thrice-weekly The Voice, is being held at a police station a few miles outside the capital Banjul, one of his sub-editors said.

"He was picked up Monday morning from his office by four officers in plain clothes who identified themselves as operatives of the National Intelligence Agency," the employee told AFP.

He said Sheriff was arrested over a December report stating that 19 members of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) had defected to the main opposition group.

The APRC has denied the report.

"He has been charged with publishing false information and will soon be arraigned in court," a security source told AFP.

Sainey Marenah, the reporter who wrote the article, was also arrested after he went to the police station to enquire about the whereabouts of his boss and has been charged, the Gambia Press Union said, without elaborating on the accusations he faces.

A sliver of land nestled within Senegal with a narrow strip of Atlantic coast, Gambia is ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh, who is often accused of muzzling journalists, among other rights abuses.