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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Will the calls fall on deaf ears?

It’s been one week since the protest turned riot occurred and as a result close to one hundred and forty people were arrested and incarcerated. Among those were four journalists. Two radio stations were also closed down temporarily.

Since then, two of the journalists have been charged with incitement and released on bail. The other reporters have also been released without charges. Another eight people, this time protesters, have also been charged with a range of violations.

Many calls have been made since then for the government to release all of them and drop the charges. Several heads of political parties and civil society organizations have appealed to the government of the Gambia to drop all charges.

Also some international organizations have also called on the government to immediately drop these charges and release the protesters and journalists unconditionally. On Thursday last, the President, Mr Adama Barrow, presided over an emergency cabinet meeting which was called to discuss these issues.

At the end of that meeting, the minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Mr Ebrima Sillah reaffirmed government’s commitment to the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

It remains to be seen though whether the government will heed to the calls from various sections of the society and the International Community and release the protesters and drop the charges or will dodgedly follow through in prosecuting them.

The more worrying aspect though is what is seen in some quarters as harassing the media or segments of it by arresting some journalists and arbitrarily closing down radio stations.

Calls have therefore been made by the Commission for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) based in Abuja, Nigeria. The CPJ has joined other organizations to call for the unconstitutional release of the reporters and the reopening of the radio stations.

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