By Alagie Manneh
Gambian journalists yesterday joined the rest of the world to mark World Press Freedom Day with a procession from Traffic Lights to the Ministry of Information in Kanifing.
There, the journalists presented a “position paper” to Information Minister Demba Ali Jawo.
The content of the document included calls for reforms to oppressive media laws put in place by the former dictatorship.
“This is a very enthusiastic group. They are guided not by the fears of the past but by the hopes and the promises that your government has imbued in them—that once again Gambia will be a shining light in terms of democracy,” Saikou Jammeh, the secretary general of Gambia Press Union, told Information Minister Demba Jawo.
In response, Mr Jawo said his government will ensure media freedom exists in the Gambia.
“I can definitely assure you that we are going to critically look at your demands and we will address them. I have heard your demands: ‘press freedom now’, I can assure you that you have already got the press freedom that you are demanding for. As far as this government is concerned, we will give everyone the opportunity to do your work without any harassment whatsoever,” he promised.
The enthusiastic journalists chanted “free speech” and “press freedom now” as they marched to the Information ministry.
One of them, veteran journalist Pap Saine, who is also the Editor-In-Chief of the Point newspaper, said because journalists play an important role in the development of any society, “therefore they need to be protected and defended.”
Lamin Fatty, who was the first Gambian journalist to be tried on false information in the government of former Gambian dictator and forced into exile, said: “I am very happy and hopeful for the Gambia’s tomorrow.
This day has not been celebrated here in this manner because the former government considered the press as enemies of development and not partners in development, but with the advent of the new Gambia, press freedom has been promised and it will go a long way in helping our development.”