By MUHAMMED S. BAH
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) on Wednesday, 14 December 2016, calls on President Jammeh to ensure smooth transition of Power to the incoming Government.
This statement was disclosed by Saikou Jammeh, GPU Secretary General at a press conference held at the GPU office in Fajara.
“Yahya Jammeh, who had earlier endorsed the outcome of the Presidential election outcome, to, in the interest of peace, stability and progress facilitate a smooth transfer of power. This, in our view, will strengthen our democracy and ensure the peace and stability that we enjoy over the years is intact,” said GPU Secretary General.
According to Jammeh, The Gambia Press Union is deeply concerned by the prevailing political uncertainties brought about by the unfortunate and regrettable U-turn by President Yahya Jammeh on the results of the December 1st presidential elections.
“We are aware of the risks and challenges the current political environment poses to press freedom. We therefore, call on both sides of the political divide to give full cooperation to the media and uphold the values of press freedom. We further call on all the security agencies to ensure the safety of journalists,” he asserted.
Mr. Jammeh further called for the release of the journalist and media personnel who were arrested during the cause of the electoral activities.
He recalled that on Thursday, November 10, Alhajie Manka, a freelance photo-journalist and Yunus Salieu, a reporter with the Daily Observer, were arrested and detained for taking photographs of President Jammeh’s supporters during his nomination at the IEC.
He stated that Yunus was released a day later, on Friday whilst Alhagie Manka spent seven days in detention at the NIA. He was subjected to lengthy interrogations and screening. Both Yunus and Manka were released without any charges.
He cited the hitches Journalists face in seeking for accreditation to cover the elections.
“On the evening of November 30, 2016, the government shut down internet connections, restricted international call and SMS services. Although services were restored on December 02, the journalists who, in this 21st Century depend almost solely on internet connectivity were left frustrated for two nights and a day. On Monday, January 11, two reporters from Al Jazeera were deported from the country” he lamented.
He said The Gambia Press Union condemns, in the strongest terms, the arrest and detention of these media practitioners.
“In this regard, we call on the government to drop charges against Momodou Sabally and discontinue his trial. We call for the immediate release of Bakary Fatty, who had been detained for one month six days today,” said GPU Secretary General.
He also called on his colleagues to be professional in the execution of their duties.
“May I remind you that it is our responsibility to provide open space for dialogue with a view to building a consensus towards resolving this potentially destabilising political crisis. The GRTS, which has regrettably stopped the broadcast of divergent views following President Jammeh’s U-turn, is particularly urged to play a key role in ending the logjam,” he remarked.
Jammeh said GPU condemns the blockade on internet, international calls and SMS services.
He urges government to respect the Nations Human Rights Council’s resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet and remove the blockade on WhatsApp and Skype and refrain from further interferences with the internet.
In conclusion, Jammeh said “we, therefore, are biased in favour of democracy. We are biased in favour of opportunities for greater freedom to the press. As the fourth estate, we are biased in favour of the verdict of the Gambian people. And, we applaud the position taken by the Gambia Bar Association, Female Lawyers Association, Gambia Teachers Union, TANGO, National Youth Parliament, Medical and Dental Association. We hereby offer our support to work through a civil society consortium towards a non-violent transition”.