18 August 2017

Gambia: A New Beginning for the Media

Under the regime of former president Jammeh impunity was the order of the day. Journalists were killed, made to disappear, arrested, detained without trial or imprisoned for what they have written or said, forced into exile, tortured, harassed and because of this hostile atmosphere self-censorship became the order of the day. Media houses or houses of media practitioners were either set on fire or closed on no legal ground.

After the victory of the coalition at the December 1 2016 polls, but especially after the swearing in of President Barrow, there was a sigh of relief. The population felt liberated and presumed that they can freely express themselves. They did not wait for any declaration or enactment of law. They simply proceeded and expressed themselves and the media also did the same.

The Gambia Press Union, the epicentre of the media in The Gambia, wasted no time in playing its role and soon linked itself with the ministry of information that showed readiness to fully collaborate with the media fraternity. The GPU recognised that even though there was goodwill on the side of the government, and the media is free and people are freely expressing themselves there was still need to reform the laws to safeguard media freedom and free speech and create the enabling environment for the development of the media.

What is happening in the media now is indeed history. In the past the media was seen as enemies and media practitioners as cockroaches. But the new government in the face of the ministry of information now sees the media as a partner and is now partnering with it.

The comprehensive strategic framework for media reform the two sides have just launched is the backbone of a host of developments. It is the beginning of a new beginning.

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