By Omar Bah
Activist Jeggan Grey-Johnson has described the directive issued by the national broadcaster GRTS to cease providing a platform to organisers of industrial actions as signs of President Barrow’s dictatorial tendency.
“The memo from the GRTS management is a threat to Gambia’s democracy and a sign that Barrow is showing dictatorial tendencies that should worry every Gambian,” Jeggan told The Standard.
The human rights activist said the Gambian people, especially the opposition and civil society should not let the GRTS management get away with their plan.
“It is actually dangerous for the GRTS Director General to say he has the audacity to choose who to give the audience to or not. This is serious because that decision is not coming wholeheartedly from the GRTS Managing Director. So, whether Gambians realise it or not, they are taking us back to dictatorial tendency. “If they get away with this, who knows the next time NAWEC could decide to cut off those who are not speaking in the language of the president or you go to the hospital they tell you we cannot attend you because you are an opposition. So, it is illegal, it is wrong and it has no legal basis,” Jeggan said.
Also, commenting on the matter, a social commentator and activist, Pa Samba Jaw said: “The memo from the GRTS Director General, Mr. Malick Jeng, instructing GRTS staff “to cease to provide platforms for all organisers of industrial action (strikers)” is both preposterous and outright unconstitutional.
“The audacity of Mr. Jeng to issue such a memo is quite appalling. But then again, this government continues to incrementally try to erode the rights of Gambians. Gambians would be naive to dismiss this memo as irrelevant, because if Mr. Jeng and his bosses succeed in this blatant attempt to violate the constitutional rights of Gambians, they’ll surely up the ante, and by the time they are done, we will be looking at a repeat of Jammeh style tyranny.
“Mr. Jeng must understand that neither he nor his bosses can give to themselves powers that they do not and must not have. The right to free speech and assembly are sacrosanct and cannot be violated without consequences. We must unequivocally denounce not only Mr. Jeng’s undemocratic memo but any pronouncements from this government and their agencies that are inimical to democracy and unfettered respect for human and constitutional rights,” Jaw said.
He argued that the memo is “not an isolated decision by an overzealous official, rather it is a very well calculated move by a government that has a serious problem with dissent”.
“We have seen a constant denial of permits for the most peaceful protests based on frivolous excuses, and also the reporting of opinionated Gambians to their employers with the sole attempt to muzzle them. If they succeed in their attempt to deny Gambians platform on the National Broadcaster, next it will be opposition parties, and their excuse, just like this one, will be for the “stability” of the country.”
“It is counterproductive to try to force legitimate groups to resort to unconventional means to spread their discontent with the government. A serious government will not shy away from airing the views of its opponents. Trade unions are legitimate organizations and must be treated as such,” he added.