The media – print and electronic – in a democracy, has a pivotal role to play in the promotion of good governance. The media is supposed to educate, entertain and inform (not sure about the order) the citizens in the country.
This rol helps in every aspect of governing. It benefits both the governors and the governed. If the media does its work right, then it can strengthen democracy and minimize, if not curb, corruption.
Most of the time in Africa though, undemocratic laws tend to cage the media thus rendering them unable to perform their functions well. In cases like that, one cannot blame the media or judge it harshly. The example of the twenty-two year A(F)PRC rule is a case in point.
However, since January 2017, the Gambian media has enjoyed more freedom than it has in decades and indeed it is better off than most of their colleagues in the other African countries.
Granted, there are still challenges as we still have laws which are unfriendly to the media. We don’t have a Freedom of Information Act and a few other issues are still outstanding. But, by and large, the Gambian media has a lot of wriggle room which should enable it perform its duties unhindered.
In order to do the work professionally though, there needs to be a certain level of competence and boldness. The freedom of the media that we talk about is not only freedom from harassment by government, but some level of economic freedom as well.
On this aspect, one can understand certain limitations the Gambian media is battling with. On the issue of revenue, payment of salaries and other earnings which drive their quest. One cannot just keep talking about ethics; a smooth road has to be paved for ethics to ride on.
Perhaps, the other challenge the Gambian media has is the small size of the country and the narrow market which constrains them. Again, if efforts are made to do their work well, the democratic gains can widen their revenue base helping make them to be freer and more independent.
Towards this end, the media should embark on thorough investigations and bring out issues which the public officials would have otherwise wanted to remain hidden.
This is not very common here; very few investigative reporting goes on in The Gambia. As a result, the culture of brazen impunity is encouraged as evil doers are confident that their dirty linen is unlikely to be washed in public.
It is well known for instance, that the coalition government made a lot of promises on the campaign trail and even after coming into office. Who is tracking those promises and their levels of fulfilment? How much of what was promised has been fulfilled? Who is responsible for certain illegal things going on in the country? How far is the work of the CRC?
As it looks like we are now abandoning the marble and using paper ballot voting system, is anyone following the IEC to see their level of preparedness? Are we going to be ready by the time elections come? How many Gambians need voters’ cards?
Why is it that there are only two depots to issue ID cards in a country of two million people? What harm can a delay in the issuance of ID cards cause? Who is responsible for the poor arrangement and/or lack of planning?
Instead of asking these questions and numerous others, our media seems to be focused on the debate on three or five years; or the power struggle between Adama Barrow and Ousainou Darboe and other stuff.
It’s high time the Gambian media took its rightful place and perform its duties.
Of course, we see a few efforts from some individuals but they are sporadic!
What happened to the hope of a new Gambia?
President Adama Barrow came into this game, this political office, as a novice, a blank slate; knowing nothing about politics, but today, two and half years later, he has matured into the art and science of political deception, and double-dealing. I have given up all hope that a true democracy can be built around this government. The strikes against this government are plenty, and the resistance to decapitating the Adama Barrow regime; strong. Gambia has crossed the line of possibility in establishing a true Constitutional democracy. President Barrow is too far-gone into the deep end of a political disaster. A government of political expediency has been irreversibly entrenched. And the hope for a new Gambia has totally evaporated with it; for now.