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Thursday, February 25, 2021

The fate of the media in the Jammeh era

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Without a shadow of a doubt, the darkest days for the media in The Gambia were during the tenure of former president Yahya Jammeh. This is both under the AFPRC and of the APRC.

The government of Yahya Jammeh systematically muzzled the media and used every means available to ensure that journalists and media houses would not have the freedom to report on issues government wanted to keep a lid on.

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Every trick in the book was employed to make sure that journalists did not have the space they required to do their work properly.

There were harassments, torture, disappearance, incarceration and even killings of journalists.

At least two journalists have been reported killed: Deyda Hydara and Omar Barrow. And after these killings, no serious investigations were done to unearth what happened as it was seen that the very government that was supposed to bring the culprits to justice were the ones that committed the crimes.

The government cunningly made it appear as if they were indeed friends of the media as they allowed a number of newspapers to continue operating in the country, albeit, under very heavy taxes.

As the citizens of the country are generally poor, it was thought that the newspapers did not really present a threat to the government because many of the citizens are illiterate and thus cannot read.

The electronic media on the other hand were not so lucky. For a number of years, the government refused to issue license to any television station.

Thus, only the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) was in operation which served mainly as a propaganda tool for the regime.

The radio stations began broadcasting the news in the indigenous languages and the government clamped down on them as well.

The case of Citizen FM and that of Teranga FM are symbolic of what used to obtain. These two stations were closed down and their proprietors harassed repeatedly.

All in all, The Gambia at the time was the worst place a journalist could find him/herself.

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