EYEAFRICA TV: Fajara, THE GAMBIA:- The Gambia Press Union has said that the country’s media landscape is still a ‘problematic situation’ as The Gambia joins the rest of the world to mark World Press Freedom Day.
World Press Freedom Day is observed on 3rd May every year to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
As the theme adopted by UNESCO for this year’s event is ‘Information as a Public Good’, GPU however chose a local theme dubbed ‘Safety of Journalists is Imperative for Credibility of Elections.’
“But the problematic media situation pointed at in the RSF Index is not just about the laws, but also the practices,” the union said. “Lest we forget, just last year, the government arbitrarily and illegally closed down two radio stations, King FM and Home Digital FM, for a whole month. As if the closure was not bad enough, the managers – and two reporters – of these stations were also arrested and detained for no legally justified reason.”
The union of Gambian journalists acknowledged that the space for media freedoms and freedom of expression has expanded since the downfall of dictatorship.
“The Gambia is ranked 85th out of 180 countries, indicating a modest progress of 2 points from the 87th position last year,” it said, referring to the recent Press Freedom Index by the Reports Without Borders.
The union added: “There are more media houses in the country than ever before and this means more people have access to the media to express their opinions. This diversity and plurality of opinions in the media counts in favour of the country.”
GPU however said beneath the ranking lies facts that reveal that the media situation in the country is only better than the dark days of the dictatorship.
According to the union, the improvement in ranking does not necessarily mean the media environment in the country is ideal, adding that one of the reasons the country is still stuck in the situation is as a result of unfriendly environment and legislation against the media.
“Our records show that in less than four years, more than 15 incidents of physical assault on journalists and media professionals occurred. And all the attacks were perpetrated either by the police or politicians, including supporters of the president. No serious investigation has been carried out. No one ever brought to book. The climate of impunity for crimes against journalist persists,” it said.
GPU said records have shown that more than 15 incidents of physical assaults on journalists and media professionals occurred in which all the attacks were perpetrated either by the police or politicians, including supporters of the president.
The GPU’s local theme ‘safety of journalists is imperative for credibility of elections’, is premised on an analysis of the current realities and trends which indicates that hostilities faced by journalists will likely worsen during the elections.