columnBy Ousman Njie
FOROYAA is concerned that what is fundamentally a major concern for all Gambians irrespective of party affiliation is being trivialised by political rhetoric. The Gambia Government is very much aware that the points raised by the EU are not new. The two entities have been dealing with the core issues for years.
Each Gambian should think for himself or herself by taking the 17 points and analyzing them to form an informed opinion.
No Gambian could deny that Taranga FM was evolving to be a Radio station which hosted divergent views and very enlightening opinion that Gambians irrespective of party affiliation appreciated and commended including the Majority leader who was a frequent guest of the station.
The Authority that should recommend the withdrawal of its licence is PURA . When the station was closed Foroyaa approached PURA for explanation and they made it categorically clear that they knew nothing about the closure. At that time the Ministry responsible for the media did not even have a Minister. It was directly under the Office of the President. The members of the media fraternity and the GPU in particular have made all kinds of representation but to no avail. The media houses in the Gambia are financially weak. Most of them are indebted and exist on overdraft. Hence to close them down even for a week is to drive them to total bankruptcy. Many countries that are committed to the media are not only exempting them from taxation but are even providing duty waivers for publishing materials and even subventions so that people would be informed, entertained, educated and given cultural orientation. The Gambia Government should not wait for the EU to tell it that it should create an environment conducive for the free operation of the media in the country. This is the dictate of section 207 of the Constitution which reads:
"(1). The freedom and independence of the press and other information media are hereby guaranteed.
(2). An Act of the National assembly may make provisions for the establishment and operation of the press and other information media.
(3). The press and other information media shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia."
Furthermore, section 208 of the Constitution states:
"All state owned newspapers, journals, radio and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion."
Furthermore, the Government of the Gambia should not have uttered a single word about being recolonised while Imam Baba Leigh is in custody. Its role is to protect the liberty, security and prosperity of the citizenry. The sovereignty of the country resides in the people. Hence people like Baba Leigh should have been released and the media houses allowed to operate before issuing any Government statement on the 17 items transmitted to the Gambia Government for action. You should read and digest them and form your opinion.
The seventeen items are as follows:
1. Commitment of Government of the Gambia to allow the free operation of independent media in The Gambia within a deadline of one month;
2. Removal of restrictive barriers/monetary/regulatory to registration and licensing of the media;
3. Removal of restriction on accessing and sharing information electronically within one month;
4. Revision of provision in the criminal code that allow for prosecution on the charges of sedition, libel, false publication and false information to a public servant within 6 months,
5. Revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months
6. Upholding of moratorium on death penalty with immediate effect
7. Provision of information regarding the recent executions, and including location of burial to families within one month
8. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly within 12 months
9. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly and to propose to introduce a de jure moratorium within 24 months
10. Review of the provision of the death penalty in the element of the criminal code and other laws for most serious crimes within six months
11. That the Government sign and ratify the second optional protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights within 18 months
12. Conclusion of an MOU with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow them access to prison facilities on regular basis within 3 months
13. Provision of regular and timely access for diplomatic corps within one month
14. Presentation of costed proposals to improve prison detention facility condition within 12 months
15. Provision of information on the UN Convention against torture ratified on June 6th 2006 within 3 months
16. Signing of the optional protocols to the convention against torture within 6 months
17. Establishment of the Human Rights Commission proposed by the Commonwealth secretariat.