Today is World Press Freedom Day. A day which according to the UNESCO website “was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
This in turn was a response to a call by African journalists who in 1991 produced the landmark Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.”
It’s a day dedicated to reflecting on how far the world has come in fulfilling the promise of freeing the rightly called fourth estate of the government.
The working condition of journalists around the world continues to be a dangerous experience. Arrests, tortures, killings and disappearances mark the job whiles draconian laws being enacted in favour of dictatorships are the markers which set it apart from all other professions.
The Gambia which entered a new era of governance has much to catch up on. Coming out of one of the most brutal governments when it comes to the freedom of the press, we remind Barrow’s government to make it an earnest endeavour to sit with experts and journalists to create policies and laws that are press friendly and curb the old ones that have demonized journalists for the past two decades. Gambians can’t take chances anymore so Mr. President, act quick!
But as the government makes moves towards that end they mustn’t also forget the past. The many atrocities that the press faced during the ice age of Jammeh’s rule must be investigated and the culprits brought to book. Historical amnesia can only be averted when we engage the past honestly and justice served.
Holding the government accountable to the people, who are the true custodians of democracy, can only be a realistic proposal when the press is given the room to operate freely within the corridors of power. It’s in that vein that the government must collaborate closely with the press and ensure the free flow of information.
Journalism is a noble profession that threatens only the most despotic and corrupt. And whatever threatens those who usurp power should be upheld, promoted and protected. For it’s only in institutions like that democracy is safeguard for it to flourish.