By Madi Jobarteh – The reports emerging that Foroyaa journalist Kebba Jeffang was attacked by individuals at the press conference organized by the UDP, NRP and GMC Sunday March 5 is utterly unacceptable and totally unbecoming of the new Gambia we wish to build. The Gambia Press Union and indeed Foroyaa newspaper and the reporter must pursue this matter to the highest level to ensure that justice is delivered. We cannot condone any more harassment of the media and journalists.
The freedom of the media is guaranteed by our Constitution under Section 207, which places an obligation on the media to hold the Government of the Gambia to account on behalf of the people. Political parties are entities that are seeking to control state power hence they must be held to account on behalf of citizens. Therefore journalists and the media have a right and a duty to raise pertinent questions, however unpleasant to political party leaders for the benefit of the general public.
The press conference was convened by UDP, NRP and GMC for the purpose of rendering account to the public through the press. Therefore journalists have a duty to ask the tough questions for which they must not be rebuked or assaulted by anybody. These parties did not convene the press conference only to have journalists to sing for them, but to ask the questions they feel are necessary to bring out the true story. Hence to assault a journalist for asking a question is a direct threat to free press and freedom of expression hence a direct threat to democracy and good governance.
I therefore call on Ousainou Darboe of UDP, Hamat Bah of NRP and Mai Ahmad Fatty of GMC, all of who are Cabinet ministers in this new government to investigate this matter immediately and bring the perpetrators to justice. As leaders of the major ruling political parties and the government, these gentlemen have a responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and fundamental rights and freedoms are protected at all times. They must be seen to condemn this undemocratic behaviour by their supporters.
Attacking the media is a severe and direct threat to the very soul of the nation because such an attack seeks to stifle freedom of expression, which is the foundation of democracy. The Gambia Press Union must go to court for this incident. Leaving such incidents unchecked are the very ones that accumulate into more abuse and impunity in society. Hence this action by supporters of these political parties must be addressed now.
I therefore call on all Gambians and local, regional and international human rights organizations and freedom of the media organizations to stand up to demand justice for Kebba Jeffang and protect free press in the Gambia. We cannot and must not tolerate any attacks against the media by anybody.
Defend Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression in the Gambia.
God Bless the Gambia.