The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa has told politicians to get out of the newsrooms and allow journalists to do their work.
“We call on politicians to leave the newsrooms and allow journalists to do their work according to the code of conduct. Journalists should also stay away from politics,” Commissioner Pansy Tlakula said on Sunday.
The media must ensure the highest level of responsibility of professional ethics, she said in Banjul during a World Press Freedom Day event organised by the Gambia Press Union, 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.”
In The Gambia, relations between the government and the private media has been sour over the years, with the government accusing some practitioners of being “opposition journalists” and some media of being “opposition newspapers.”
According to FPI research, at least three journalists have been known to have joined either the ruling or opposition parties in recent years. A few other journalists have also taken government-appointed political positions.
Former Sud FM’s prominent broadcaster Mambanyick Njie joined the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and later moved to the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC).
Pateh Baldeh, a former reporter for the pro-opposition Foroyaa newspaper and Pa Touray Bajinka, a former judicial correspondent of Today newspaper both joined the NRP. Bajinka contested and lost in a parliamentary by-election in 2014.
Also, former senior journalist with the Foroyaa had contested and lost in parliamentary elections under the opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD).
When journalists are known to be leaning on one side of the political spectrum, it could reduce public trust and confidence in them because it could influence their independence and impartiality, basic principles of the profession, according to FPI.