The West African Journalists Association (WAJA) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) paid a solidarity visit to The Gambia from 16 to 18 March 2017.
During their visit they met government officials including the minister of information and communication infrastructure when they shared ideas on issues concerning the media in The Gambia.
They issued a statement at the end of their visit which indicated that over the last 22 years, the Gambia people witnessed massive human rights violation, including press freedom and the repression of journalists.
The statement expressed surprise that amidst they learnt of reports of the assault on journalist Kebba Jeffang of the FOROYAA Newspaper by members of the victorious coalition that defeated the defeated President Jammeh at the polls. “That this happened at all during good times, underlines why journalists should always be watchful even in familiar terrains. We are told the Minister of Interior apologized, which is good, but what is needed now is action to end impunity for crimes against journalists – not apology,” the statement underscores.
The delegation is assured of “an air of renewal sweeping across The Gambia” and “the promise of the new administration to respect and promote press freedom and freedom of expression.”
The delegation also declared its unqualified commitment in working with the GPU get fully engaged with the reforms to be undertaken by the new government especially in the media sector. The statement revealed that it discussed some of the issues facing the media and journalists in the country as listed below:
1- Media Law reforms
We acknowledge the initial pronouncement of the new government to embark upon an in-depth legal reform including Media Law. Such media reforms should encompass among others:
- Decriminalisation of libel;
- Access to information;
- Inclusive Public Service Broadcasting;
- Democratic Media regulation;
Ø Upholding Press Freedom and the Safety of Journalists in the new constitution;
Ø Media training, Etc…
2- Implementing Court Decisions
In the true nature of the former government of Mr. Jammeh, many decisions by National and the ECOWAS Courts on violations of press freedom in the Gambia, were ignored and disrespected by the administration. We call on the present Government to revisit those court rulings for the sake of justice and the rule of law.
3- Investigating the Past
The investigations on journalists killed and those who disappeared are still pending, especially the cases of Deyda Hydara and Chief Manneh. It is easy to say let’s leave the past in the name of reconciliation, but reconciliation begins at least with establishing the facts. So we urge the Government of President Adama Barrow to help us identify the perpetrators of those crimes against our colleagues.
“Finally, our two organizations [FAJ and WAJA] are prepared and ready to work with our colleagues in the GPU to reinforce their standing in order to play their role more effectively in strengthening the emerging democracy in the country. We pledged both technical and moral support going forward,” the statement concluded.