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GPU ‘concern’ over state of media freedom

Sep 27, 2012, 9:49 AM

The Gambia Press Union have expressed concern over what it said is the deteriorating state of media freedom in the country, stressing that this would undermine the country’s democratic gains.

In a statement issued Wednesday and signed by the Executive Board, the Union said it has been taken aback by a recent order by Personnel of the National Intelligence Agency, who on Friday September 14 ordered the publishers of the Standard Newspaper and The Daily News to cease publication with immediate effect.

“The Standard Newspaper and The Daily News have contributed significantly to the promotion of democracy and development in The Gambia by providing a platform for not only members of the opposition and the ruling party to air their views, but have also amplified the views of Gambian ministers and members of the security forces,” it said.

The media, the Union added, play a crucial role in not only nurturing the ideals of democracy and human rights, but also give voice to the voiceless.

“The draftsmen/women of the Gambian Constitution are conscious of the significant role the media play in a democracy. This is why section 207 (1) of the Second Republican Constitution states, “The freedom and independence of the press and other information media are hereby guaranteed,” it stated.

Section 207 (3) added, “The press and other information media shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia.”

Section 208 indicated, “All state owned newspapers, journals, radio and media television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion .’                                   

According to the Union, by ordering the two organizations to cease publication, it means their readers are being denied access to information contrary to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

“We submit that by ordering these organizations to cease publication, it means their workers are being denied the opportunity to work and earn income for a decent living. We further submit that the closure of these news organizations would undoubtedly cause hardship to the families of the media workers employed by the publishers; and as well affect the casual workers,” the statement noted.

Furthermore, it went on, this move has the potential to discourage investors from investing in the media industry.

“Gambia being a developing country needs foreign direct investments to not only keep the wheels of the economy moving, but also to create new employment opportunities for its citizens. Therefore, the tiny West African nation should pave way for the media to report its positive values to the world,” it said.

Noting that history has also proven that media is an effective tool for the conservation of peace and the rule of law, the Union further stated that this is why major democracies have promoted media freedom in their respective countries.

“Given that the tourist season is fast approaching, we believe The Gambia should at all times avoid negative publicity as this may affect the tourist season which is a major foreign exchange earner for the country,” it said, while calling on the Gambia Government to reverse its decision and allow media organisations to contribute their quota to nation-building.