Africa, Media

Gambian president has a go at journalists

By Theresa Mallinson 1 December 2011

Last week president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, gave journalists yet another one of his strongly-worded messages. In short: media freedoms will be curtailed for the good of development. He doesn't seem to notice, or care, about the false binary his remarks imply. By THERESA MALLINSON.

On Friday Yahya Jammeh, president of The Gambia, was re-elected for a fourth term. He rose to power in a 1994 coup, which means he’s been in charge for 17 years – and since he’s only 46 years old, it doesn’t look as if he’s going to cede his office willingly for many years to come.

Like all good dictators, Jammeh is no fan of the media, and has enacted a series of repressive media laws during his time in office. No surprise then, that this election period he was on the offensive against journalists. Jammeh addressed reporters after casting his vote on Thursday, and used the opportunity to attack his country’s media.

“They talk about rights, human rights, and freedom of the press, and (say that) this country is a hell for journalists. There are freedoms and responsibilities. The journalists are less than 1% of the population, and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1% of the population to destroy 99%, you are in the wrong place” he reportedly said. “In 17 years, I have delivered more development than the British were able to deliver in 400 years. No Western country can tell me about democracy.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemned Jammeh’s words. “We are appalled by President Yahya Jammeh’s use of scornful and contemptuous language to publicly intimidate the weakened Gambian media into further self-censorship while offering Gambians a false choice between press freedom and development,” said CPJ Africa advocacy coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Jammeh must immediately retract these statements, which endanger journalists in a country where attacks on media houses and murders of journalists remain unpunished.” Unfortunately, we doubt he’ll take much notice. DM



Photo: REUTERS

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South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

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