By Omar Bah
Following widespread criticisms and concern over President Barrow’s recent comments at political gatherings in the provinces, the Office of the President (OP) has yesterday issued a statement attempting to put his comments into context.
During his recent provincial tour, President Barrow sparked controversy when he lashed out at some sections of the media and opposition. Human rights and other pro-democracy organizations and activists said they are worried about his utterances.
But a statement published by State House yesterday painted a more conciliatory picture of the president’s statement and meaning. It reads:
“The president addressed events leading to the fatal shooting and attacks on law enforcement officials and law-abiding citizens. There is evidence of individual citizens and some associated with a political party who shared audios and postings of hate speeches, incitement of violence and personal insults to public officials, including the president.
While the president tolerated and ignored most negative incitements and hate utterances, the trend continued unabated on social media posts, online platforms, and radio stations.
Recently, we have experienced acts of terror resulting in the loss of two precious young lives, leaving a female police officer fighting for her life. The Gambia is known for its peace, and President Barrow has amply demonstrated his tolerance and peace-loving character, as well as his commitment to democratic values, including the highest regard for the freedom and liberty of people.”
It added: “The Office of the president assures the public that the president is not threatening anyone in any form or shape but intends to put it on record that troublemakers, in the guise of what they are not, would not be allowed to bully opponents, rain insults, peddle hate speech or incitement to “render the country ungovernable”.
In a recent interview with his ruling NPP media team, the President declared that media houses would be held responsible for allowing their audiences during “phone-in programmes” to promote hate speech, abuse people, or incite violence in the country, regardless of one’s political affiliation. President Barrow stated, “We fought to bring democracy back in 2016; therefore, we should not lose sight of that. The country cannot advance without respect for the rule of law. Let us promote peace, security, and advancement of our country.
“Therefore, the public and all concerned persons are urged to extend courtesy to one another, no matter their differences, because they all have one thing in common – being Gambians and nothing can change that. Party supporters should recognise that the country goes through election cycles to choose its leader, and the verdict has to be respected by all. This does not imply that one cannot criticise the government of the day, but it has to be with respect. He urges the media to use their platforms to educate and enlighten the people.
“On media freedom, The Gambia under President Barrow scores high both in Africa and globally and does not intend to reverse that trend. However, the media is responsible for providing a platform for divergent views with adherence to the ethics of professional journalism and the rule of law. The media is fundamental in promoting peace and cohesion in the country.
Therefore, the Office of the President calls on all Gambians to uphold the positive democratic values we are known for, respect for each other and the rule of law. We are one people, one Gambia, and one nation. Let us conduct party politics decently, for The Gambia is our homeland. Together, we can build our country,” the statement concluded.