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Journalists should be regarded as partners C’wealth Mission Chair

Nov 30, 2011, 12:26 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

The chairman of the Commonwealth observer mission to the country’s just-concluded presidential election has called on Government of The Gambia to regard journalists in the country as partners.

Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former foreign minister of Nigeria, who headed the Commonwealth expert team, made the call Monday evening while speaking to journalists shortly after having a closed door meeting with the Gambian leader.

Accompanied by other members of the group, Professor Bolaji was at State House to present the preliminary statement of the Commonwealth observer mission to President Yahya Jammeh.

“Like I told the president, as human beings, there will always be lapses that need to be addressed. Therefore, we noted that the media needs to be regarded as a partner in development in this country, and the Commonwealth stands ready to support that cause,” he told journalists.

Recalling that the Commonwealth was in The Gambia in July this year on a capacity building exercise, Professor Bolaji said the Commonwealth is prepared to continue such capacity building for the media.

“We believe that the democratic space should be made wider for all stakeholders to freely advance and campaign for their views,” Bolaji added.

According to him, the report presented to the Gambian leader is a preliminary report, which will be followed by a multilateral report that will go to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and then be shared with the Gambia government as well as all Commonwealth governments.

Noting that Gambia’s experience could be shared with other African countries, Professor Akinyemi commended the Independent Electoral Commission for its conduct of the election and use of the marbles, which he said, was transparent.

“Whenever an African state does something praiseworthy, we should look for how it did it and seek to emulate it, but at the same time, when we notice that there is something that need to be corrected as brothers, it is our obligation to point it out,” he added.

He told journalists that the Commonwealth mission noted the calm atmosphere in which the campaign took place and the absence of violence, and the civility of the language adopted by the ruling APRC party in calling for non-violence and that this was reciprocated by the opposition.

“So our observations were based on what we actually saw, and we also noted the massive turnout of the youths and women. We concluded that the election was done fairly, openly and with transparency,” Professor Akinyemi told pressmen.

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