Africa, Media

Gambian president has a go at journalists

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