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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Letters: Gambia – Al Jazeera, politics and media bias

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Dear editor,

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Was it an oversight or an outright media bias? That most news outlets did not cover the protest march in Gambia Sunday in support of President Barrow to serve a full 5-year term.
As a concerned Gambian and keen follower of events back home, I was worried throughout yesterday while monitoring all news outlets like I did on the 16th December 2019 when the Operation 3 Years Jotna group staged a similar protest requesting for the President to step down after 3 years. I though Al Jazeera did well by providing coverage to the December protest, but I was very disappointed in their failure to cover the pro-Barrow protest Sunday.

I see both events as not good for the economy and the security of the country as they had the potential to spill over into violence. But thanks to the Gambia police and the even organisers everything went fine. The crowd yesterday proved to me that there is enough support for Barrow to continue on. It did not matter to me how the crowds were mobilized, this is politics, and I have seen enough evidence during the December protest to convince me that UDP was behind the 3 Years Jotna group to the extent of mobilizing people from all across the country and lodging them at the Independence stadium. It is obvious now that the two protest groups now present a political battle between the UDP of Darboe and NPP of President Barrow.

When I watched the Al Jazeera coverage of the December protest, as an informed Gambian, I did notice a lot of questionable reporting of the facts, however it was good that they provided coverage. Why were they not present at the pro Barrow protest? Is Al Jazeera only interested in covering violence and an anti-government issue? Because a protest/demonstration can always turn violent. Was Al Jazeera hoping Gambia would go in flames during the December protest? I thank and praise the leaders of both protest groups and the Gambia Police for the peaceful outcome of both events. But I caution that we cannot afford to continue to have such signs of instability.
So I am very disappointed with Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque in particular and some of the local media, as they clearly demonstrated their media bias for not providing coverage of such a major event with thousands of Gambians.

Some of us in the Diaspora are not interested in any of the politics, and the peace and stability of our country is our main interest. We don’t trust politicians, so whoever you put in place, it will take them years to fix the Gambia’s problem. You can see how the coalition got quickly dismantled during its early days because the politicians were just fighting amongst themselves to secure their personal interests. So yes I agree with both Sedia and Halifa (the two fine and principled gentlemen of PDOIS) when they argued that the coalition has long since been dead and the MoU was no longer worth the paper it was written on.

I preferred Darboe over Jammeh, but right now I would rather have Barrow continue for as long as he can win elections than have the UDP and its members and leadership who have gone public that they will make the Gambia ungovernable for Barrow. That is a very selfish approach for our infant democracy. This shows that they do not have any consideration for the interest of the people of the Gambia. If they believe they have the majority on their side, election year is less than 12 months away, why not wait instead of making everyone suffer? I believe President Barrow foresaw the UDP’s agenda to derail his government which is why he let go of Ousainu Darboe and his colleagues to focus on their fulltime political duties. Because no sitting President would like to have a vice president during the week who is active as leader of the opposition, leading anti-government campaign over the weekend.

I am totally disappointed in Darboe and the UDP in how they managed their relationship with Barrow. We all watched and witnessed how the UDP micromanage the role and functions of the Presidency because Barrow felt he owed them at the time. Now that they broke up with him, they want us to see the president differently. Like I said I do follow social media and I, like several other thousands of Gambians have seen comments made by the likes of Yanks Darboe and Sheriff Ceesay of the Operation 3 Years Jotna, and Saihou Saidilly in support of President Barrow when they were in good terms with the President. If they changed their minds, that is fine, but let them not hijack a protest movement to destabilise our country. This is hypocrisy at its core.

Barrow is their Barrow (the UDP) and they gave him the reason to decide to uphold the Constitution instead of an agreement they dishonoured and threw into the rubbish bin.
Did they forget about their claim that the agreement was never signed? That Darboe will sue anyone who brings up the 3 years issue? Did Yanks Darboe forget his own legal argument that “To ask President Barrow to choose the MoU over the Constitution is like advising him to kill for honour, because it is moral, but not legal”?
And them to see Yanks lead a protest asking the President to honour that same MOU he opposed when UDP’s Darboe was Vice President! Yanks, with all due respect, you have discredited yourself, because you have exposed your partisan viewpoint, you are now a bona fide politician and a rebel.

And now back to my disappointment over the lack of media coverage of the pro-President Barrow protest, clearly shows who are balanced, who are biased and who chase stories just to fan the flames. So, I say to Nicolas Haque of Al Jazeera, you don’t deserve another political coverage of events in Gambia, and I am very disappointed in your failure to demonstrate balanced reporting to truly reflect the vibrancy of our new and teething democracy to the whole world.

After all is said and done, the victor of the two protests, for me is President Barrow and his supporters. In Gambia democracy is possible. We need peace and stability, and I am with anyone who prioritises this as a winning strategy, because that is the only undisputable way to economic progress.

A senior citizen

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