Information minister says not all disagree with GRTS memo

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By Tabora Bojang

Information minister Lamin Queen Jammeh has claimed the infamous directive issued by the national broadcaster GRTS to cease providing a platform to organisers of industrial actions may have been seen otherwise by some Gambians but many other citizens and groups have expressed satisfaction about it.

Asked for comments on the much criticized memo, Minister Jammeh told The Standard yesterday that looking at it from another angle, many other people believe the directive would help stability and peace in the country as the media was found to be responsible for setting many countries in the sub-region on ‘fire’.

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He vowed that he would not take any personal initiative to engage the GRTS management to override or interfere with the management.

The minister also categorically denied allegations that the memo was instructed by the government in its attempt to stifle dissent.

“The responsibility of supervising the day-to-day administration of the radio and television is part of the core functions of the management. That is why they have been appointed and the responsibility is delegated to them. If the minister or the government could have done that then there would not have been any point of appointing management at GRTS,” Jammeh said, rejecting any suggestion for him to engage the GRTS to rescind the directive.

He went on: “You see, the media can popularise things, including even the unpopular issues. If you are telling me that it [the memo] has been felt this way by media groups, on the contrary a lot of other people have also called me [minister] to register their appreciation of the directive.  They believe it is going to promote stability and peace in the country. So it is from your perspective that it has been felt otherwise but it is important for you to interact with the public to find out their reactions. The perspective of some other Gambians is on the contrary. They appreciate it.”

Asked what segments of the society called him to express their satisfaction and appreciation of the directive, Minister Jammeh said: “This is from the general population of the society. A lot of people. They are individuals who do not belong to any organised groups and they have expressed their satisfaction and some of them even felt that some countries within the sub-region were put on fire by your media groups”.

Asked if the entire government shared his views on the memo, the minister said the comments are merely his opinion and version of the story as the head of the line ministry responsible for the national broadcaster. The memo, signed by GRTS Director General, Malick Jeng, directed all staff of the news and current affairs department to cease providing platforms for all organisers of industrial actions in all sectors and instead feature official reactions of government agencies and law enforcement authorities.

It sparked uproar among activists and civil society organisations with the Gambia Press Union and Victims Centre calling it unconstitutional and a threat to democracy.