By Tabora Bojang
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations have criticised the directive issued by the national broadcaster to cease providing a platform to organisers of industrial actions.
In a statement released over the weekend, the press union described the directive as an attempt to shrink the civic space and ignore voices of people and organisations calling for better working conditions.
GPU head, Muhammed Bah, said the union found the directive to be illegal as it is inconsistent with the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of speech and expression including freedom of the press and the media.
“Section 208 of the constitution further provides that all state-owned newspapers, journals, radios and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. We are therefore calling on the director general of GRTS to rescind this directive with immediate effect and create space for divergent views in programmes of both the state radio and television,” he urged.
According to the union, the Labour Act of 2007 also spelt out the right of workers and employers to establish and join workers and employers organisations of their choice.
The union urged information minister, Lamin Queen Jammeh, to initiate and work closely with relevant stakeholders to implement TRRC recommendations aimed at transforming GRTS into an editorially-independent public service broadcaster.
GPU secretary, Modou Joof, said: “The reform of GRTS is necessary, and should be treated as a top priority to break from an unacceptable past of censoring critical voices on national issues, including those of striking workers and the opposition. This is necessary to ensure government accountability and to create the democratic space needed for freedom of expression to thrive.”
Imperiling good governance
Also reacting, the Victims Centre in a statement signed by its chairman, Sheriff Kijera, called the GRTS directive “a threat to human rights, democracy and good governance”.
“GRTS is a public institution that is obliged to amplify the voices of all Gambians and every citizen is entitled to be heard. The action of GRTS’ director general, Malick Jeng, is unethical and grossly irresponsible as a state broadcaster. We condemned this action in the strongest possible terms and therefore called upon him to withdraw the memo. We are against any action that would violate the human rights of citizens in The Gambia and this statement clearly did that,” it read.
The statement underlined that an industrial action is “a lawful, democratic process guaranteed by the constitution and other international instruments”, and any refusal of the state or public body to recognise those provisions will give way to “authoritarian rule and undermining democracy and freedom of expression.”