GPU Urges President Barrow to Practice What He Preach

8 Mar

President Adama Barrow has repeatedly reassured journalists and the public his government will promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression (Photo Credit: M.S.Joof/FPI/Feb 2017)

By Modou S. Joof

The Gambia Press Union on Wednesday urged Gambian President Adama Barrow to uphold promise of press freedom after his supporters physically assaulted a reporter of the Foroyaa newspaper on Sunday.

GPU said in a statement that it “strongly condemns” the attack on Kebba Jeffang, and demands that the government of President Adama Barrow bring the perpetrators to book.

“Now is the time for him (Barrow) to put words to action by publicly condemning the unwarranted conduct that threatens and dents his government’s outlook as a democracy,” GPU’s secretary general Saikou Jammeh said.

President Adama Barrow has repeatedly reassured journalists and the public of his government’s commitment to the protection and promotion of freedom of speech, in particular press freedom.

Constantly harassed, intimidated journalists

On March 5, 2017, supporters of President Barrow drawn from three political parties forming the coalition government assaulted and injured the journalist at a political rally in Manjai Kunda.

Barrow’s government ministers of foreign affairs Ousainou Darboe, tourism Hamat Bah, and interior Mai Fatty, presided over what they called “a joint press conference” where the reporter was assaulted.

The accounts of several journalists that were at the scene of the attack suggest that the hall was crowded by party supporters who constantly harassed and intimidated journalists.

On the account of Jeffang, this confrontation happened right in the presence of the three leaders.

“More supporters came in a group, clearly ready to attack me. They hit me and in the process torn up my shirt. I suffered internal shoulder pains afterwards,” he said.

Regrettable

The GPU said the attack on Mr Jeffang is both regrettable and unfortunate and should not have happened.

It was perpetuated by parties who form part of the government that that claims it is bringing what it called “a new dawn” of freedom for the press in The Gambia.

“It is a violation of constitutional provisions that guarantee the freedom and independence of the media and failure to adequately address it will tantamount to impunity,” Jammeh said.

Swift investigation

The GPU is committed to engaging the leadership of UDP, NRP and GMC, to restrain their supporters, and compensate Mr Jeffang for the damages incurred.

It also called on the Minister for Interior to facilitate swift investigation into the matter. “Justice should be served.”

Jammeh said: “We demand further that the concerned parties come out and publicly condemn the attack on the journalist and offer an unreserved apology.

“It is our considered stance that henceforth, press conferences by political parties should be exclusively for journalists so that party supporters do not interfere thereby disrupting the process.”

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