Feb 19, 2009, 5:12 AM
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) is concerned and disturbed by a pronouncement attributed to Dembo Kelleng Bojang, the Chief of Kombo Central. He is quoted by the Foroyaa newspaper as saying that he will dismiss any staff of the Brikama-based Radio Station FMB who makes any announcement relating to Hon Buba Aji Sanneh, the National Assembly Member (NAM) for the area.
According to the paper, the Honourable Chief said, “I will not allow the name of anyone from the opposition to be on our radio.”
While we recognize the fact that the Honourable Chief has a right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Section 25 (1) (A) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia (“Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which shall include freedom of the press and other media”), we believe the Honourable Chief does not have right to make any statement that contravenes the same constitutional provision as well as, namely Section 207 (1) which states: “The freedom and independence of the press are hereby guaranteed.”
The media, in our view, is an instrument for the amplification of people’s voices and expanding a country’s democratic space.
Therefore we view this recent utterance by the chief as an onslaught on The Gambia’s democratization process which if allowed would stifle free expression and reverse our democratic gains.
We strongly believe that the Honourable Chief should understand that the media is a tool for amplifying people’s voices including that of the NAM for the area.
The mass media has a crucial role to play in democracy and good governance. And that is why Section 207 (3) of The Gambia Constitution states: “The press and other information media shall at all times be free to uphold principles, provisions and objectives of the Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia.”
It is our view that national interest should supersede personal or partisan interest and as such every person should always defend the provisions of the Constitution and not behave otherwise.
Furthermore it is important to note that free expression is an essential ingredient for nurturing peace and stability, and any attempt to muzzle free expression should be perceived as a recipe for insecurity.
When people are denied the opportunity to express themselves openly and candidly, they often resort to unconventional means to make themselves heard.
We therefore deplore this latest move by the Honourable Chief and call on him to allow the staff of FMB to do their work in accordance with the ethics of the media profession.