Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure has reiterated The
Gambia government’s commitment to strengthening and protecting the rights to
free expression and access to information.
Demba Ali Jawo was speaking on Thursday during the commemoration marking the 15th anniversary of the Declaration of Principle on Freedom of Expression in Africa, a side event on the margins of the 61st Ordinary Session and 30th anniversary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights currently underway in Banjul.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will be engaging our natural partners, the media, without whom all Gambians will live in darkness as to initiative and put in place to ensure that we rebuild our broken nation and stand to be counted among the countries that respect human rights, particularly the rights of journalists and human defenders,” he said.
Minister Jawo paid glowing tribute to the late Deyda Hydara, co-founder and editor of The Point newspaper, who was gunned down on December 16, 2004 and all those who disappeared or were exiled during the past regime.
He continued: “Deyda was a staunch champion and promoter of the Declaration passed two years before his untimely death. Had the previous regime respected, even in its barest minimum, certain clauses of the Declaration, events like the circumstances leading to his death, disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, the detention, imprisonment, violence towards and eventual exile of numerous Gambian journalists and burning down, illegal shutting of media houses over the past 22 years would have been avoided.”
The approach and manner in which the former regime treated the press and journalists, he went on, speaks volume and are in stark contrast to the Declaration, particularly, sections 1 which guarantees freedom of expression.
This, according to him, will always serve as reminder and such should encourage the government, as a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to leave no stone unturned, in making sure that these principles are applied and applicable to the day-to-day lives of Gambian journalists, social commentators and the public at large.
Minister Jawo recalled that after 22 years of a repressive regime, where structures were deliberately dismantled by the former government to ensure that they entrench themselves and deprive the public of the rights to know, it is an enormous task to re-establish normal media relations.
However, he noted, what is certain is that the government sees The Gambian media as a partner in ensuring meaningful change for Gambians from all walks of life.
He affirmed that another certainty is that oppression of journalists and human rights defenders is a thing of the past adding that it is in the interest of the country and government that The Gambia progresses from its dismal ranking of press freedom and human rights violator.