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World Press Freedom Day observed in Gambia as fallen heroes honoured

May 4, 2017, 10:36 AM | Article By: Kaddijatou Jawo

The Gambia Press Union, in partnership with European Union, United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organization, UNDEF and FNUD, yesterday commemorated World Press Freedom Day.

May 3rd is set aside each year to celebrate the fallen heroes who have sacrificed their lives to the cause of press freedom.

This is the first time the Gambia Press Union observed World Press Freedom in the form of march-past, symposium and public lectures from respectable individuals with vast knowledge, media chiefs and prominent journalists from The Gambia and within the sub-region.

This year’s commemoration was themed “Critical minds for critical times” and focused on the role of the media in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

Hundreds of media practitioners took to the streets chanting, “We want press freedom and we want it now”.

Why the day was never before observed in The Gambia was because under Yahya Jammeh’s regime journalists were viewed as criminals.

The former president often said he would never allow journalists, who are just 1% of the population to destroy the so-called democracy he claimed existed at the time of his rule. For this reason the GPU refrained from commemorating this important day.

The past regime suppressed the media. The new government promises the media a new found democracy with press freedom at its heart.

President Adama Barrow has promised on many occasions that the media will be free.

During his inauguration and the 52nd Independence celebration he publicly made remarks, in public and private, that the press will enjoy freedom to disseminate divergent views and dissenting opinions as required by the Constitution. 

The Media Law shall be reviewed and code of conduct for responsible journalism promoted.

This he said will include re-orientation of the state media to take up its public service responsibility.

Other ministers have also promised that they will open up to journalists and tell them what their agendas are and how monies in each departments will be spent or have been spent.

The march-past ended at the Ministry of Information, Communication & Infrastructure.

The GPU presented a position paper to the minister there to take a look at the content and see how best and when they will act on those promises.

Minister Jawo thanked the Gambia Press Union for observing such an important day and for the impressive turnout.

“I can definitely assure you that we are going to look at the demands in the letter and they will be addressed as far as our capacity is concerned,” he said.

He told journalists they have all the press freedom they were asking for and the government would allow journalists to do their work without harassment or hindrance.