By Musa Bah
For a government, life is easy in a dictatorship and difficult for the populace. Whatever the government wants to do, it just goes right ahead to do it and tiga du toc as the Wolofs say. During the reign of Yahya Jammeh, it was the norm that anything goes because no one challenged him and as a result, the rule of law was eroded.
His regime closed down radio stations without any due process; they seized people’s properties and nothing came out of it. That was only possible because it was a dictatorship and the citizens let him run wild with their governance systems and structures.
In a democracy, however, it’s the opposite. It is tough for the government and easy for the citizens – or so it should be. The rule of law, human rights and due process have always to be kept in view in whatever the government does.
As such, the government cannot just do things out of the blue. It has to consult and follow due process as the citizens will not – or should not – just fold their hands and let the government do as they please. If they wish to do that (seize the rights of the people), the citizens have access to the courts which will adjudicate and put the government in its place.
It seems that the government of President Adama Barrow mangled the manner in which it suspended the two radio stations during the protest-turn-riot of the Three Years Jotna Movement on the 26thof January 2020. Even if the suspension was right or justified – and I am not saying for a second that it was justified – the way and manner in which it was carried out makes it lose legitimacy and right procedure.
In a radio talkshow on West Coast Radio a day or two after the protests, both Mr Ebrima Sillah, Minister of Information, Communications and Communications Infrastructure and Mr Ebrima Sankareh, Governemnt Spokesperson said that they were not consulted when King FM and Home Digital FM radios were being suspended.
It has also come to light that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (Pura) also say that they were not in the picture bfore these radio stations were suspended.
The question then arises as to who the ordered the closure or suspension of these radio stations? According the the Information Act of 2009, the only person who has authority to close down a radio station is the minster of Information. Thus, it appears that the suspension of these stations was illegal.
The media is the oxygen that democracy breathes and if one intends to kill democracy and institute dictatorship, the fastest way is through gagging the media and having an absolute control over the narrative in the country.
It is therefore worrying that it is fourteen days today since the two radio stations were arbitrarily and illegally suspended. In addition, at least four journalists were arrested around the same time.
It is hard to find another explanation for this other than trying to indimidate and harrass the media in the country. If the Government of President Adama Barrow is at all serious about respecting democracy, human rights and civil liberties, they should immediately allow these radios to resume operations.