Gambia gov’t urged to uphold press freedom – Bubacarr Sowe

The [Gambian] Dispatch

Published On: Fri, May 3rd, 2013

US Department of States annual human rights report exposes Gambia government

A Predator: Jammeh is described by Reporters Without Borders as one of the predators of the press. Photo: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

The Gambia Press Union has urged the Gambian government to reflect on the dire situation of journalism in the country and create space for a free press to flourish.

In a statement issued ahead of a ‘policy dialogue’ with the government, the union said it observing  World Press Freedom Day (May 3) by engaging the government in a ‘frank discussion’ on the needs for a free and vibrant press.

The GPU said the constitution guarantees a free press but the space for a free and vibrant independent media continues to shrink in the country.

“On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, GPU wishes to once again call on the Gambia Government to critically reflect on the dire situation confronting the media and journalists in this country with a view to reviewing policies, laws and the entire political environment so as to create and expand the space for freedom of expression and a free press to flourish,” it said.

“This would augur well for national development, which would also earn the Government more respect as it will be seen to be acting in line with the constitution and in fulfillment of the obligations placed on the Gambia by regional and international instruments ratified by our Government.”

The union’s president, Emil Touray in a Facebook post announced that Gambian journalists will hold a procession on Friday from Africell Junction to TANGO  where they will gather for the ‘policy dialogue.’

Press freedom in the Gambia has been under attack principally from the government for the past eighteen years under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh who once said ‘citizens should stop buying newspapers so that journalist can starve to death.’

His government has used intimidation, unlawful detention, torture and forceful closure of newspapers and radio stations as a weapon to silence journalists.

Most recently is last years closure of  The Standard and The Daily News on the same day. Just a month before, agents from the Office of the President stormed Teranga FM and took it off air.

Two reporters went through months of harassment in a so called investigation after requesting a permit from the police for a peaceful protest. One of them, Abubacarr Saidykhan had to flee the country after the duo received death threat. 

Also in its catalogue of abuse to the press is the detention of a newspaper reporter, Ebrima ‘Chief’ Manneh since July 2006. Manneh was arrested by agents of the National Intelligence Agency at the Daily Observer where he was a reporter. The Gambian government failed to appear before the Ecowas Community Court of Justice where a suit was filed by the Media Foundation for West Africa. A judgement was entered in Manneh’s favour, ordering the government to immediately release and compensate him US $100,000. It has still not comply with the ruling.

Impunity or state sanctioned murder is another tool the regime has used against journalists. The 2004 killing of The Point’s editor Deyda Hydara is still unresolved as the government shows no sign of willingness to investigate the murder.

The Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders in its  Press Freedom Index 2013 ranked Gambia as one of the least press friendly countries in the world.

It described President Jammeh as a member “of an exclusive club of authoritarian African leaders, some eccentric others stern, who hold their countries in an iron grasp and keep a firm grip on news and information.”


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2 Comments on “Gambia gov’t urged to uphold press freedom – Bubacarr Sowe”

  1. TAO OTUNLA Says:

    The Gambia’s Jammeh is a manic predator who has in his Presidency shown high ruthlessness to cow an already “AFRICAN” population with high tolerance for political rights denial. Must the Gambian press outside the government outlets he owns and controls publish him? BLANK OR BLACK HIM OUT AND LET US WATCH HIS REACTION OR RESPONSE. Can, or Would the GPU dare and WIN.? tao



    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Tao,

      Always refreshing reading your takes on issues, especially those that concern our African-ness in particular and what is common to our humanity

      I watched a documentary on the mad man – who could only have lasted as a head of state in an African country – strutting and expounding “facts” on health issues he knows nothing about, especially Aids; it was, to say the least, embarrassing.

      I agree that blanking him out would be a slight dent as these despots thrive on dominating every space in the hapless societies they rule but the Gambian Press Union needs external assistance because they cannot win without the outside world helping.

      Thanks, as always. Regards,



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