The Gambia Press Union (GPU) should engage The Gambia government in dialogue on its advocacy for press freedom and freedom of expression, according to the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
“You should change your strategy by engaging in dialogue with the government because confrontation does not work,” Commissioner Pansy Tlakula said in Banjul at an event marking World Press Freedom Day organised by the GPU, UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner on May 3, 2015.
The theme for this year’s event is “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age.”
Tlakula said the country’s main journalists’ body should have a constructive dialogue with the government in addressing the problems affecting the vibrancy of free media in The Gambia.
She also urged the members of the media to pay high regards to their professional ethics.
Tlakula said she is currently lobbying African governments to decriminalize sedition, insult laws which she described as “bad laws.”
“The laws on sedition and criminal defamation are ‘bad laws’ that are being used by governments across Africa to suppress dissent, freedom of speech and expression and opposition,” Commissioner Tlakula observed. “Where there is repression on freedom of speech, journalists are involved in self-censorship.”
She added: “We have to, as we fight for a free society, use litigation means and challenge the laws in the Court, and until we exhaust the legal means at home and abroad.
“You should also engage the government in constructive dialogue; you have an opportunity in that you are one people with one heritage in this country.”
Also, she urged journalists to remember their fallen colleagues, those imprisoned and harassed in the line of duty.
‘Ready and willing’
Last month, Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, assured that the government is both “ready and willing” to engage the media in talks with a view to smoothening relations.
“It was recognised that there has traditionally been misunderstanding between the government and the media, resulting largely from lack of dialogue,” the Union said in a statement after a meeting with the minister.
GPU has, since last year, filed a suit seeking to repeal sedition laws at The Gambia’s Supreme Court. The proceedings, which are ongoing, challenge the constitutionality of the laws that are seen to be restricting freedom of expression and of the press.