By Alagie Manneh
The president of the Gambia Press Union, Muhammed S Bah, has issued an impassioned call for CSOs and other stakeholders to urgently work to address President Barrow’s spate of attacks on media and freedom of expression in The Gambia.
“I’m writing to express my deep concern over recent developments in The Gambia that threaten the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, and press freedom,” he said in a lengthy write-up shared with The Standard and addressed to Tango, the umbrella body of non-governmental organisations in The Gambia.
President Barrow’s recent actions and statements, said Mr Bah, “are deeply troubling and demand our immediate attention”.
“In recent weeks, there has been a noticeable escalation in President Barrow’s attack on the media and freedom of expression. Journalists and media outlets and some members of the public have faced intimidation, and harassment both online and offline. This assault on the free press and freedom of expression is not only detrimental to the principles of democracy but also undermines the hard-fought progress that The Gambia has made in recent years.”
As advocates for democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression, Bah went on, “we cannot remain silent in the face of these actions”.
“It is our collective responsibility to raise our voices and call on President Adama Barrow to respect the fundamental rights and liberties enshrined in the Gambian constitution and international human rights standards. I urge all civil society actors to come together and take the following actions particularly Tango:
“Hold a press conference and publicly condemn President Barrow’s rhetoric against the media and freedom of expression in general. As well remind the President of his duties and obligation to the Gambian people, share information about the situation in The Gambia with our networks and communities, both nationally and internationally, use social media, public statements, and other communication channels to shed light on the threats to democracy and freedom of expression, seek opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue with government officials, including President Barrow, to express concerns and advocate for the protection of democratic values and human rights, stand in solidarity with journalists and media organisations facing threats and attacks, offer legal and practical assistance to those in need, and help ensure that the voices of the media are not silenced, advocate for legal and policy reforms that strengthen press freedom, protect the rights of journalists, and promote transparency and accountability in The Gambia’s government, reach out to international organisations, diplomatic missions, and human rights bodies to bring attention to the deteriorating situation in The Gambia and seek their support in pressuring the government to respect democratic principles, and document instances of attacks on media and freedom of expression and share this information with relevant organizations and institutions to ensure accountability.”
Mr Bah said that by coming together and taking these collective actions, stakeholders can send a clear message to Barrow that the international community and civil society are watching and will not tolerate attacks on democracy, freedom of expression, and press freedom in The Gambia. “It is our duty to stand in solidarity with the people of The Gambia as they strive for a democratic and just society. Let us act swiftly and decisively to protect these essential pillars of democracy and human rights in The Gambia,” Mr Bah appealed.