By Sanna Camara
Nineteen years has now passed, journalists and other members of the media are routinely subjected to human rights violations, all in gross disregard for the constitution and the international instruments on civil and political rights which the Gambia is a party, a statement from Gambia Press Union (GPU) stated.
According to its official statement released on Monday, marking the World Press Freedom day 2014, violations such as unlawful arrests and detentions, torture, unnecessary trials, harassment, assaults, death threats and arbitrary closures of media houses are making it extremely difficult for journalists in The Gambia to their work.
May 3 2014 marks 19 years in commemorating this day under the government of President Jammeh, the statement observes, adding that The Gambia Press Union continues to demand that the government upholds its democratic obligations and engender an enabling environment that will guarantee freedom of expression and press.
Negation of free expression, intimidation of journalists
“Yet, the space for freedom of expression and journalists in The Gambia is shrinking daily as the state continues to entertain draconian media laws and harassment of journalists,” it further charged.
The statement went on: “This negation of free expression and intimidation of journalists show no sign of abating” especially in the face of recent amendments in the Criminal Code and Communications Act, and libel still remaining as criminal as sedition.
“After nine years, there is still no justice for slain journalist Deyda Hydara, who was murdered in cold blood on the night of December 16th 2004. No proper investigation has been conducted on the disappearance of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, a senior reporter of the Daily Observer Newspaper who went missing since 2006. The Daily News continues to be arbitrarily kept under lock and key,” the Union observed.
This year, The Gambia Press Union in collaboration with the National Commission for UNESCO and The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), commemorated the day with a public symposium on the theme ‘Reaching New Goals: Free Media Fortifies the post-2015 Development Agenda’.
GPU said it brought this theme into a national context with a view to engaging the Government and other stakeholders in a frank discussion on the necessity of a free and vibrant media for the promotion of good and accountable governance, the promotion of human rights and sustainable development in The Gambia.
“It is common knowledge that freedom of expression and a free media are fundamental building blocks of democracy, and the gateway to the realisation of many other human rights. Freedom of expression allows space for change and innovation; supports transparency and deters corruption; exposes human rights violations; and ensures that public institutions as well as private sector firms and NGOs are efficient and effective in delivering goods and services that meet high standards, and are affordable and accessible by the general public,” it argued.