By Alagie Manneh & Tabora Bojang
The Government of The Gambia has announced the reopening of two radio stations closed in January in the wake of the violent 3 Years Jotna protest.
The decision was announced following a meeting between the leadership of The Gambia Press Union and the Attorney General alongside the Information minister mediated by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRH). The government also announced the dropping of all charges preferred against the radio journalists who were detained at undisclosed locations last month.
“As we seek to strengthen our democracy, there will be shortcomings not only on the part of government, but also on every other section of Gambian society, including media practitioners,” Justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou told waiting journalists at the NHRC building in Kololi.
He said his government is “not promising a perfect democracy” but will work to remedy those shortcomings whenever they occur.
Mr Tambadou said both the government and media practitioners have “learned lessons” in this “unpalatable” wrangle. However, he did not elaborate what those lessons were.
The GPU had pushed for a number of demands including a public apology and redress from government for damages incurred by the affected media houses, but the minister insisted that the union had its own version of what actually led to the issue, and so did the government. “We hope the media and government can avoid the circumstances which led to this incident,” he said.
When pressed by reporters, the Justice Minister lost his cool and accused journalists of “not perfecting” their art. “You want to tell me you have perfected your art? No, you haven’t. Sometimes I read your articles and I amaze myself at the level of, you know… let’s not get down that road,” he stated.
Sheriff Bojang Jnr, the president of the GPU, welcomed the reopening of the radio stations as “a good will” but was quick to add that that alone was not enough to satisfy the union.
“The idea is to send a signal to whoever abused these powers they never had, not do it again. To make sure that if a media house is going to be closed, due process of the law must be followed,” he stressed.
Mr Bojang who warned that impunity will not be accepted again in the country, advised the government to accept it made a mistake. “We felt the government exercised powers it never had. This put a lot of issues out there; the roof of insecurity, the roof of paranoia. If the police IG can order his men to go and close radio stations, without due process…”