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In Defence Of Press Freedom

May 5, 2008, 6:43 AM

Journalists and media workers across the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on Saturday, 3 May 2008. Appropriately, the theme of this year's celebration is: Freedom Of Expression - Access and Empowerment. In a nutshell, without freedom of expression, there is no democracy. That was why Halifa Sallah argued persuasively that freedom of expression is not only meant for journalists and media workers, but also for every citizen of the globe.

Therefore, citizens need to be empowered by informing them truthfully and impartially. And this is not possible in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion. Specifically, the media fraternity in the Gambia must stay united, because without solidarity it will be difficult to get the job done. In the spirit of the theme of this year's World Press Freedom Day, we call on the Gambia government to open its doors to the private media for access to information, in addition to having them cover state functions. It is also important for government to attend activities of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), because we are partners in development. If there is any misunderstanding among us, we should sit down and thrash it out to the mutual satisfaction of everybody.

In this regard, we call on Fatim Badjie, the new Secretary of State for Communication, Information and Technology to open a dialogue with the Gambia media fraternity with a view to fostering a cordial relationship between the government and the media community. We are condemned to live together because we are partners and as a result we need each other in the drive towards national development.

One way the government can improve relations with the media community is to repeal draconian press laws that get in the way of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country.  Similarly, we urge the authorities to speed up the trial of Fatou Jaw Manneh and Mam Sait Ceesay. As the adage goes, justice delayed is justice denied. We also finding it disturbing that for almost two years now, the whereabouts of Chief Ebrima B. Manneh are still unknown. His continued disappearance is a smear on the image of this country. Even more worrisome is the apparent lack of progress in the investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara on the night of Thursday, 16 December 2004. Ever since, the investigating authority came up with its preliminary report in 2005, the investigations seem to have come to a dead end. We call on the authorities to get independent investigators to get to the bottom of the Deyda Hydara murder.

With so many challenges threatening to consign the journalist into extinction, it is imperative for Gambia journalists to close ranks and work for our common interests. In these trying times, we should stay united and resist any attempt to sow seeds of discord among us.

" Freedom is the recognition of necessity."

Friedrich Engels