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Friday, August 6, 2021

The president, the Tonya and the Kanilai incident

Within the last few days, two major incidents took place in this country which are indeed concerning and therefore require the urgent intervention of the president of the republic for the purpose of unifying the country and maintaining peace. The first was the attack against UDP officials who visited Kanilai by individuals who insisted, violently that UDP must not stay in the village. Not only is this action against many provisions of the Constitution of The Gambia but, more worrying is that it got the endorsement of the president.

Section 26 of the Constitution guarantees the right of all Gambians to political participation. Furthermore, Section 25(2) guarantees the right to free movement to all Gambians to go to any place within this country especially public places such as a village. Section 33 stipulates that no one should be discriminated on account of any status including political opinion or affiliation. Section 60 guarantees the existence of political parties and their right to put up candidates to contest public elections. Therefore, each and every political party has a right to visit any village and town in this country for the purpose of canvassing for votes. Hence UDP and any other party has a right to visit Kanilai, Boraba or Banjul without any restrictions!

The person who has the primary obligation to protect these rights is none other than the president of the republic because he is the one who was elected as president and sworn to defend the constitution in which these rights are stipulated. Therefore, when incidents like what took place in Kanilai happen, the president must be the first to jump up to condemn it in full in fulfilment of his oath of office to uphold and defend the constitution. Failure to do so, means the president has violated his oath of office, which, according to Section 67(1)(a) constitutes grounds for his impeachment.

Therefore, it is indeed concerning that as this Kanilai incident was unfolding the president decided to not only ignore that unconstitutional act but to go further to tacitly endorse it. Instead of that rowdy behaviour of the attackers attracting the wrath of the president, it was rather the press conference of the UDP leader that was unacceptable to the president, which he verbally expressed in his meeting with alkalolu and seyfolu at the same time at State House. This is indeed a display of gross misconduct by the president that all Gambians must condemn.

Finally, Fatu Network need to define the editorial policy of its new programme, Tonya Kesso which is run by one Muhammed Darboe. In its latest episode yesterday with a guest called Baba Jah, it must be said that the content is totally defamatory, uncouth and exhibits the highest forms of political intolerance and hate speech.

Indeed, one can find various radio and television programmes around the world dedicated to truth, accountability and hard questioning such as BBC’s Hard Talk, or Aljazeera’s Head to Head or CNN’s Andersson 360. But one will not find such programmes giving space to anyone to ravage the privacy and personal lives of another person. Rather, those programmes focus only on issues and the very lives of their guests, only.

Mr Jah’s comments about the family of Ousainu Darboe are too deeply personal and extremely private that they represent hate speech and character assassination against the dignity and reputation of Darboe! The comments are totally irrelevant to politics and holding political leaders accountable.

Tonya kesso mu menti, Ousainu Darboe has not been on any platform yet in which he went to expose and ridicule the personal life and privacy of Baba Jah such that one may claim that Baba has a right of reply. To drink alcohol, or bear children out of wedlock or fail to pray are neither acts of violence nor offences criminalised by any law in The Gambia. Hence it is unprofessional for a media house to create a platform where a guest would literally ridicule the personal life of a child, a woman and a political leader, with or without evidence.

Thus, I wish to call on Fatu Network to review the editorial policy of this programme to determine what are the issues that this programme will cover and according to which guidelines. If not, the programme will only become a gossip centre where hate speech, character defamation and political intolerance will prevail hence leading to reinforcing hatred, division and political violence in the country. In that case, the Fatu Network itself also runs the risk of being dragged to court for slander.

Professional media houses, journalists and talk show hosts have a huge role in informing citizens about the agenda of political parties and leaders and other political actors. In so doing, they also have a duty to uphold ethics in journalism and politics as well as hold all political actors accountable. Thus, the media should refrain from making their platforms weapons in the hands of political opponents to violate the right to privacy and dignity of each other, or spew garbage onto to the people.

Sadly, not only was this programme on Fatu Network only, but it was also shared by the NPP Party TV on social media which further speaks to the kind of leadership provided by the president and his party.

I do not think any political leader or party, and in fact any citizen should watch such a programme much more share it. This programme does not serve the purpose of peace, good cultural values, national unity and security. Much as we wish to exercise all of our democratic rights, let’s bear in mind that such rights have no room for hate speech and violation of other rights.

It is for this reason that I will repeat my call to all political parties and their leaders and supporters that they should not only refrain from hate speech and character assassination of each other, but they must also punish leaders and supporters who engage in such undemocratic and violent and hateful speech in order to end political intolerance.

Indeed, no Gambian can claim any benefit from the Tonya Kesso programme yesterday. The programme did not serve any public good, rather it only serves to further polarise and entrench hatred in our society. Fatu Network and all media houses, talk show hosts and journalists should refrain from such unethical conduct. For The Gambia Our Homeland

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