#Article (Archive)

Building relations between Govt and the Independent Press

Mar 11, 2011, 11:24 AM

As an independent paper, we would once again like to reaffirm our commitment to report objectively without any biasness in the interest of the public and welcome the move by the new Director of Press and Public Relations (DPPR) soon after assuming office, to build good links between State House and the independent press.

We know this has not been so for more than a decade, despite repeated overtures from the press to create such links.

The latest such attempt was in the New Year Messages of Media Chiefs in the Gambia, as highlighted by The Point newspaper at the time.

Indeed, as stated in our editorial this past Monday, it is paramount that the independent press has access to government news, so that we can effectively contribute our quota to the dissemination of information about what the government is doing and saying, etc. for the benefit of the general public, and our readers, at home and abroad.

This is a duty we have, and want to fulfill, since we have a constitutional mandate to do so. All we ask is that the government facilitates this by giving us access to public information, as and when required.

It is our view that copies of speeches or statements by the President should be always prepared and disseminated to all the press, whenever they are made by the President or delivered on his behalf. Once this is done, then the rest is up to us, to use or not use the handouts, as we deem fit. 

However, the office of the DPPR has a duty to make available to all the press the official statements and photos of happenings at State House.

We also want the DPPR to be inviting the independent press to cover State House functions, which facility is only extended to GRTS and the Daily Observer newspaper.

As explained above, to give us such access is not to give us a privilege, but to enable our right to fulfill our duty as dictated by the constitution, which says the press must hold the government accountable to the people of The Gambia.

This is what The Point newspaper was established to do, and will continue to do. Remember our motto is: "For Freedom and Democracy".

Thus, that The Point is an independent newspaper must never be in doubt. Let there be no doubt about that, in anybody's mind, or in any quarter!

We recall that The Point has always championed professionalism in the national press, and it is on record that we have paid and still continue to pay a high price for our principles and principled stance.

Be in no doubt, therefore, that The Point shall continue to uphold the principles held dear by our founders and publishers, especially in this crucial period of our nation’s uncertain  journey towards its destiny with a proper democratic dispensation, which we are fully aware is still lacking in today's Gambia.

That The Point lives by its motto is evident in some of our recent stories namely, our report on comments made during the meeting of representatives of the Council of Chiefs with the Speaker of the National Assembly; and, the reported arrest of a man in a village in the Wuli district of the Upper River Region for the fact that the flag of Gambia’s newest opposition party was hoisted in his compound. 

As has been said, again and again, the press does not create the news; it only reports what is happening.

In our view, to detain the head of a family at a police station, reportedly on the instructions of the regional governor, because pictures of an opposition leader were seen pasted on the walls of his compound and the opposition party's flag hung in the man's compound (within his private property!) is the sort of action which gives the government a very bad name, and spoils the image of the country as a place where there is political tolerance and maturity.

Indeed, this is the poor image created of the Gambia by public servants, not what journalists write or say, because people are smart enough to know fact from fiction, and propaganda or spin from peddling the truth or lies.

Public servants at all levels should stay out of politics, and leave that to the officially registered politicians and their supporters, that is, the party militants, yai compins, constituency chairpersons. These are the people who should dabble in politics and talk politics, not the civil servants who should serve all and sundry.

Our advice to the new DPPR and her colleagues is to advise the executive to instruct government functionaries at all levels to desist from any actions inimical to the efforts of the Office of the President.

In any case, we want to assure our readers, that we shall continue to be alert, so as not to deviate from the path we embarked on when The Point newspaper was launched nearly 20 years ago.

Indeed, we will remain alive to our responsibility to serve honestly the people of this great nation of ours.

We invite the DPPR and her colleagues to be guided by the oath of office, which is to execute their duties without fear or favour, affection or ill will; and for all of us to always remember the oath of allegiance to the motherland.