The press is the fourth arm of government in a democracy. This means that the press plays a crucial role in any vibrant democracy. The press informs, educates, entertains and holds the government to account so that there will be progress and development. It is thus very important to nurture press freedom in a democratic state.
In the past, the press had serious problems in The Gambia and could not do its work as expected of it. There were – and still are – laws that are inimical to freedom of the press and of expression. This served as a great hindrance to the development of the country. Many journalists had series of unpleasant run-ins with the then government and some were forced into exile.
However, on December 1st, 2016 we went to the polls to oust that government and marshal in a new one – one that promised to be democratic; one that promised to ensure freedom of the press and expression. A new dawn was ushered in for the press.
It is however unfortunate to observe that despite the copious promises, the press is yet to have total freedom, and even safety sometimes. One of the problems that the press continuously struggles with is the inaccessibility to information. The government is not always forthcoming with information when it is sought by the media. The media has a responsibility to inform the public of what is happening in the country; but they can only do that when they have timely, accurate and relevant information from the concerned government functionaries.
Besides, several incidents have occurred since this government came into office that do not engender hope for the safety and security for the press and the people who work therein. The latest of these is the assault on journalist Pa Modou Bojang of Membe Kering Program even after he clearly identified himself as a journalist. Officers of the Police Intervention Unit are said to have manhandled and tortured him. He was then thrown into a cell in Brikama for about six hours. This does not send a good signal of the government’s commitment to freedom of the press.
We call on the government to conduct a quick, thorough and exhaustive investigation into the arrest and detention of this journalist and bring the perpetrators to book. The press is a partner in development.