By Omar Bah
A former information minister, Demba Jawo, has recommended to the owners of King FM and Home Digital FM to sue the government over the closure of their radio stations.
“I think their rights have been violated as media houses in this country. So, the only thing they can do through the Gambia Press Union, is to take legal actions to regain their rights,” Jawo told Taranga FM radio over the weekend.
He added: “So I feel they need to resort to the law, using the GPU because you don’t expect them to go and use force to get their radio stations reopened. That will encourage confrontation and we don’t need confrontation in this country. The law is there and it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the judiciary has regained its independence. We expect that justice will be eventually served if they resort to the courts.
“It seems due process was not followed in the closure of the two radio stations because Pura, as the regulatory institution responsible for monitoring radio stations, must be involved in any process regarding closure of a radio stations,” he said.
Jawo said Pura is the institution empowered to decide on whether a certain radio station following due process and in the case that it is not, it would recommend to the minister of information for further action and it is only the ministry that can take action. “But it seems the police took the law into their own hands without going through the right procedure [in this case],” he queried.
“If I were the minister of information, I would have taken up the matter with anybody who is responsible for closing down these radio stations because it appeared to me the ministry was not involved and that is not correct. You cannot close down a media house in this country without the involvement of Pura and the Ministry of Information. I don’t think the security has any right whatsoever, to close down any media house in this country. There are procedures,” he added.
The former minister said he saw the closure of the radio stations as an attack on media freedom because “there was a lot of hope when the new government came into office that freedom of the media and freedom of expression was here to stay but what happened after the Three Years Jotna protest is a cause for concern.”
The manager of King FM, Gibbi Jallow, said he has not seen “any tangible reason”why government should shut down his radio.
“We were giving equal opportunities to all political parties and even the Barrow Youth Movement used to sponsor a programme. And even when their contract expired, we extended their time free of charge,” he explained.
Pa Modou Bojang, the proprietor of Home Digital FM denied giving favours to the UDP, arguing that they have invited both the government and other political parties.
The Gambia Government said the radios have been “suspended” and not “closed down” but is yet to say when they would be allowed back to resume broadcast.