Gambia Affairs:Will Gambia Government Hijack Media Commission?

Thursday, April 26, 2012 | comments

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia and Press Union President Bai Emil Touray

The democratic engagement unveiled by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma over the establishment of Gambia Media Commission (GAMEC) is indeed good news as it will open optimistic perspectives for freedom of expression and access to information.

Since the advent of the Second Republic, the country's democratic system has been continually characterized by serious sins committed against the media – intimidation, arson attacks, arbitrary arrests, disappearance, murders, closure of media houses, punctuated with draconian anti-media laws.  

The Gambia government may be among the most repressive in Africa, but it is hoped that the constructive dialogue that Commonwealth has engaged with The Gambia government will open a new era.

Here is a regime intolerant to divergent views and dissenting opinions. It has waged all out war on private media practitioners and outlets for being critical of a regime that ascended to power through military coup in 1994. Many of us believe that the regime will not support the establishment of a Media Commission as previously conceived by the Gambia Press Union in 2004 shortly before the death of Deyda Hydara.

Government's decision to accept the establishment of Commonwealth funded Media Commission is bogus and a decision taken out of desperation amid growing regional and international isolation for reform.

We suggest that the Press Union continue with the entrenchment of its 'own regulatory body'. This is what will strengthen the media and ensure that journalists in both electronic and print media operate freely as professional journalists to play their role in the enhancement of an open society.

We appeal to our colleagues at the Press Union to continue with its plan without delay and in conformity with best practice, to among other things alert practitioners in the electronic media, print media, online newspapers and bloggers in their gate-keeping responsibility.

We cannot be a party to a bogus establishment that will end up being harnessed by the regime. The Gambia Press Union needs to go ahead with its legal framework to regulate media with a view to adhere to stringent regulations in addition to ethics of the Union's code of ethics. And ensure that journalists take their high obligation of social responsibility.

With repressive media laws and unresolved cases of death, disappearance and arson attacks on media persons and outlets create suspicion that there is something under government's sleeve. If established, president Jammeh's government will hijack the Media Commission and subsequently will end up outliving its intended purpose. The

Jammeh administration is unpredictable and unreliable. Should we wait and see what will happen next?

By Saikou Ceesay

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