After years of unconvincing environment for Journalists and journalism in the Gambia, journalists were hopeful that the appointment of the new Information Minister Nana Grey Johnson will smoothen the media environment.
However, the veteran journalist’s words during the World Press Freedom Day were more of a caution than encouragement for journalists.
His appointment came at a time when the Gambian media is faced with marathon challenges, with three media houses (Taranga FM, The Daily News and The Standard) arbitrarily closed, arrests and detentions of Journalists and GPU vice president Baboucarr Ceesay, Abubacarr Sadykhan and Alagie Jobe of Daily Observer.
Grey-Johnson’s appointment as a long serving writer and journalist in the Gambian media injected new hope in the hearts of media practitioners, thinking he will make a different. On the contrary, the way and manner he delivered his statement at TANGO shattered hopes of the hall well parked with journalists, diplomats and friends of the media.
After delivering a lengthy list of government plans and agendas over the years, Minister Johnson asked what the agenda of journalists towards national development is, adding there are success stories waiting to be told than to embark on government scrutiny.
“Suspicion, paranoia and agenda is the barrier between the government and the media, it is the business of the government and the press to rout out any evil intention to the public that may halter development,” the media consultant cum politician said on Friday.
While the entire journalist fraternity of The Gambia were seeking for free speech, the new information minister cautioned “it is save to speak, it is not to, misspeak and to report wrongly”, before heading to the exit door of TANGO conference room.
Though, he is the first minister to witness the first GPU organized World Press Freedom celebration, which was done in a form of a procession with chants like “Free Speech! Free Press! Free Media!” from Kairaba Avenue to TANGO Conference hall at Bartil Harding Highway in Fajara.
However, his May 3, 2013 speech and actions were far unconvincing for journalists to rely on.
For Madi Jobarteh, programme manager of TANGO, freedom of speech is critical to all other rights as it is an inherent right that gives meaning to all other human rights. “There is no meaning in life if one cannot say a word,” he said.
The executive director of the GPU, Gibairu Janneh, appealed to the government, again, through the new Minister of Communications and Information, Nana Grey Johnson, to reconsider the closure of Taranga FM radio, The Daily News and The Standard newspapers, which were closed in late 2012.