last week, Gambian journalists received information that the Office of the
president has announced that all journalists covering the State House must
undergo a background check at the State Intelligence Agency (SIS) formerly NIA.
This news was greeted with dismay and criticism as the future of press freedom
in the country was put on the balance.
On Monday, a delegation from Gambia Press Union (GPU) led by its president met the Director of Press and Public Relations (DPPR) and after fruitful discussion; they reached a consensus that the screening of journalists by NIA would not go ahead.
This is welcome news as it further instills hope into the future of journalists in the country. It also reminds them that journalists are not criminals but partners in development. Gone are the days when journalists in the country are seen as threats and enemy of progress. It is a breakthrough in the country’s march towards press freedom. Media is the fourth estate in any democratic dispensation and their role cannot be overemphasized as far as development is concern.
This also reminds us about the importance of media and that due recognition must be upheld at all time. We have seen Gambian journalists standing by one another and fighting against a common obstacle that they believe if let to happen, can hamper their work in their quest to educate, informed and entertain the masses.
Gone are the days when they are dictated what to do and what to write about the government. Journalists in this country will never be silenced again. Henceforth, adhering to the basic principles of neutrality, impartiality and objectivity will always be our guiding tool to effectively play our rightful role in society.
We do agree that the policy to subject journalists to screening before being issued press accreditations to cover State House functions was to get to know the people covering the presidency, but the journalists’ point of argument and condemnation is why by an institution that has been linked to right abuses in this country (NIA).
Why not at the Office of the DPPR to conduct the background checks or simply requests the applicants to share their Curriculum Vitae and other documents?
We commended The Gambia Press Union and the entire Gambian journalists for taking a common front and in solidarity to ensure their voices are heard. We also commend the Office of the DPPR for listening to the concerns advance by journalists by rescinding their decision in the interest of all.
“Journalism, as concerns collecting
information, differs little if at all from intelligence work. In my judgment, a
journalist’s job is very interesting.”