GPU urges NIA to stop arrest of journalists

Calls on the Government to uphold its constitutional obligation

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By Sanna Camara

In its statement observing the World Press freedom day 013, the Gambia Press Union has called on the state intelligence agency o stop the arrest and detention of journalists in the country.

The GPU said given the high rate of arrests and detention of journalists in the country by the security agencies, the NIA in particular, GPU demands that this practice stops forthwith…

It said this act against journalists “does not only tarnish the image of the country, but it retards the professionalism and overall development of the Gambian media. Consequently, such practices force the media not to only engage in self-censorship, but to focus on areas they feel are ‘safe’ to cover.”

A shrinking space of media freedom

The banning of journalist Binta Bah of The Daily News from covering a court proceeding, deportation of BBC journalist Thomas Fessy, the summary closure of Teranga FM, Daily News and Standard Newspaper, coupled with the arrests of Journalists Babucarr Ceesay, Abubacarr Saidykhan and Abdoulie John are clear indications that media freedom is deteriorating in this country, the statement said. 

“As we extend a hand of friendship and understanding to the Government, we must however bear in mind that even in the midst of celebration by journalists and friends of the media, there is a shrinking space of media freedom in The Gambia,” it added.

Letter and spirit of the constitution

The Gambia Press Union said it therefore calls on the Government of the Gambia to uphold its constitutional obligation in ensuring protection, development and professionalism of the press and other information media as enshrined in Section 207 (3) of the Supreme Law of the Land. This section states that, ‘The press and other information media shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia’.

“GPU would like to see a secure and safe working environment for journalists in this country. While GPU understands that the Government and its Agencies have roles and functions to play in the country’s democratization process, we however feel their actions should be in line with the letter and spirit of the constitution. 

Positively engage with the media

“In this regard, GPU would appreciate it very much if any arm of the Government and indeed any individual, organization, company or institution in the public, private and civil society sectors has qualms about any actions or reporting of the media to courteously engage the GPU and media houses for redress.

“We believe that the arrest and detention of journalists or taking them before a court of law should serve as a last resort, i.e. when all mediation efforts with the GPU and respective media houses fail. But even in situations where a journalist has to be arrested and/or detained or taken before a court of law, GPU demands equal treatment, fair trial and the respect for the rule of law.”

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