When you left the shores of the Gambia to attend the general assembly of the United Nations in New York, there were reports on social media that you traveled along with fifty three delegates. There were concerns that that number was too high as it would task our near-broken economy even further. As a concerned citizen working with one of the leading radio stations in the Gambia, Paradise FM, my colleague and I sought to get the right information to inform the public accordingly.
However, we tried as much as we could to verify this figure but we could not. We got in touch with the Ministry of Information but could not get the actual figure. Again, we got in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Office of the Press Secretary at the Office of the President but to no avail. It is undecipherable that all these offices do not know how many people you traveled with.
The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia has tasked the media with holding the government accountable for/and on behalf of the general public. The media has been referred to as the fourth estate/arm of government which means that it has a pivotal role to play in a democracy. As the ordinary people do not have access to the government officials, and as they need information which affects their lives and livelihoods, it is of extreme importance that the media seek the relevant information so that they can inform the people accordingly.
Information, it is said, is power. When people have the right information and have it at the right time, it helps them make informed decisions. Since your government came to power, the media has had freedom of expression-by this I mean, no one is arrested or tortured for something s/he said. But access to information is still a herculean task. It is very hard to come by information nowadays. It seems the free access to information is more of rhetoric than reality.
Your government will do well to remember the role the media played in putting you into office. No government can do without the media. It is understood that not all information can- hould-be disseminated. But the type of information we are referring to here is no state secret i.e. it is not a secret that can endanger national security.
The public deserves to know the number of people you traveled with, how much money was expended and why was it necessary to go with the number of people you went with.
Have a good day Mr President.