#Article (Archive)

Government-media relations

May 21, 2012, 2:09 PM

Of recent, there have been calls by the Gambia Press Union and other bodies for the Gambia government to review existing media laws in this country, so as to create an enabling environment for journalists to operate freely and independently.

Also, not long ago, precisely a few days before President Yahya Jammeh was sworn in for another five-year term of office, we emphasized on these pages that the independent media is central to the success of the government’s development efforts.

Without the media, government will be at a loss as to how its programmes and projects are assessed by the people.

But how can a cordial relationship between the government and the media be achieved?

As the interface between the government and the people, the media deserves a great deal of respect so that they can carry out their statutory role of making government accountable to the people.

We would like the Jammeh administration to adopt an open door policy towards the independent media, even though we have seen some improvement of recent.

We want to be seen as partners in development, and not as enemies or a mouthpiece of the opposition, because for us, here at The Point, our position is that we are neither supporters of the opposition nor  the government.

All that we want is a just society in which democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law will prevail.

Also important to us is that expression of divergent opinions must be tolerated in all public media houses, at all times.

As a government, the APRC administration should be ready to accept criticism; the APRC party should not be seen to be tolerating praise-singing, because experience has shown that praise-singers are chameleons who take on the prevailing colour just to alleviate their own poverty.

In the political history of the world, praise-singers are known to have jumped ship in mid-stream.

On the other hand, great leaders learn more from criticisms, which, like mistakes, are the standards by which we measure our progress in life.

As journalists, we never create news; all that we do is to simply report what we see and hear in society.

This role of the journalists predates the advent of democracy, as we know it.

It is the form and medium that has only metamorphosed in keeping with the social, political, economic and technological advances in society.

What journalists report, whether the pleasant or the sordid aspects of life as lived in the society, is of value to both government and the governed.

Journalists help good governance by relaying to the people government policies and programmes.

But what we have seen in this country is that journalists are only applauded when they write a favourable report, from the perspective of the powers that be. However, when the reports are critical, the journalist is vilified, and branded as public enemy number one.

We have experienced so many instances of such.

It is in light of all these that we would like to again appeal to the government and President Jammeh, in particular, to use his powers to repeal the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2005 and Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004. Both pieces of legislation are inimical to press freedom in The Gambia.

To conclude, while we are committed to keeping both government and the governed abreast of developments in and around the world, we want to do so in an atmosphere free of fear and uncertainty.

“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever.”

Oscar Wilde