As part of events marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the Gambia Press Union has urged the government to step up to its commitments and deliver justice for crimes committed against journalists in the country.
The Gambia has been one of the contentious states for exercise of freedom of expression and free speech in the past two decades, the GPU secretary general Saikou Jammeh said. However, none of the crimes committed against journalists in the country were effectively investigated by the state and in cases where the regional Ecowas court made a judgement, the decisions were ignored.
“There were a series of cases in which media houses were burnt down and in all those cases, no one was brought to book. There were also a number of journalists who were tortured and in all those cases, no one was brought to book, except the Musa Saidykhan case which was tried before the Ecowas court,” Jammeh said.
“Ebrima ‘Chief’ Manneh disappeared and until now we don’t know about his whereabouts. And we all know that December 16 is coming and this was the day Deyda Hydara was gunned down by assailants still unknown. So we are living in a climate where impunity for crimes against journalists prevails and we want to see an end to this.”
The GPU president, Emil Touray, said impunity for the past crimes committed against media personnel has created an environment of fear which caused self-censorship.
Information minister Demba Jawo said the government is willing to protect the rights of journalists and honour the Ecowas Court decisions that were made against The Gambia in cases against Mr Hydara and others.
“We are also working with partners to ensure we have a self-regulatory mechanism for the media,” Jawo said.
Hussein Thomasi, special adviser to the Justice minister, said his ministry is working on a new constitution that will ensure rights to free speech and expression are protected.
“You can also come together and make your reform agenda as media and share it with the constitutional review committee to influence the process,” Thomasi urged the journalists.
The International Day to End Impunity is marked on 2 November every year to discuss unresolved cases of abuse against journalists and call for action to seek justice for these victims. The event was organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa and the GPU.