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Monday, March 8, 2021

Safety of journalists

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It is almost becoming a norm to hear reports of attacks on journalists in the Gambia.

Every now and then one hears of incidents of journalists being attacked by mobs in the country.

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Since 2017 when we ushered in a new and democratic government, there have been at least four incidents involving journalists being assaulted by mobs.

In some cases, the reporters were injured and in others they lost some of their equipment.

It is true that since the coming into office of the new government, no journalist has been arrested or prosecuted, but their safety is still not guaranteed as they are frequently attacked.

These attacks pose a threat to the safety of journalists which by extension poses a threat to our nascent democracy.

Press freedom and freedom of expression are the cornerstones of a democracy and where journalists are not safe, it may hamper their ability to do their work properly.

When the media is unable to do its work effectively, it makes it very difficult to hold government and government officials to account which is a recipe for sliding back into dictatorship or the lack of rule of law.

It is the responsibility of government to ensure the safety of all citizens, including – and particularly – that of journalists.

This can – and should be – done by providing effective security measures at all events which are likely to engender such incidents but also by prosecuting to the full force of the law whoever is found guilty of assaulting journalists.

The latest incident involving reporters from the Fatunetwork and one foreign based media house occurred when they tried to film and get information about a group of APRC supporters who were at the court to show solidarity with Yankuba Touray, a former minister in the former regime, who is being tried for murder.

The government has condemned the attack but what many citizens are saying is that condemnation alone is not enough.

Many are calling for the government to investigate and prosecute the culprits so that it may serve as a deterrent to others.

Protect our journalists!

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