29 March 2019

Gambia: The State Needs to Explain Why State House Journalists Have to Be Screened

Photo: Pixabay
(File photo).

The office of the Director of Press and Public Relations (DPPR) at the Office of the President had earlier invited media personnel who wish to cover the engagements of the President, State House events, and media briefings, referred to as State House Press Corps, to apply. Many reporters did apply by filling a form and submitting documents and there was no indication at this point in time that reporters will be screened before they are accredited. However, on Wednesday Muhammed Bah of Foroyaa, who had also applied, received a call from the office of the DPPR informing him that he will be invited by the NIA for screening. It seems the same message had been delivered to other applicants and there was soon an outcry in social media on issue.

This prompted Foroyaa to enquire from the Director of Press and Public Relations the reason for the screening. She referred our reporter to "Policy on Media Access to State House" which had earlier been shared with the media. This document however does not talk about screening by the NIA, of journalists wish to become part of the State House Press Corps.

There is need for transparency, a clear explanation of the need to screen journalists who have already volunteered information and relevant documents. Explanation must be clear and convincing.

The policy document talks about engaging the media to avoid the spreading of false rumours. The implementers of the policy should bear in mind that promotion of inclusive media is the best way to contain the spread of false rumour. Exclusive media simply encourages the spread of false rumours. Under the Jammeh administration GRTS and Daily Observer were given ample access to information to state house but no one believed an iota of what came from these media houses. Rather the people gulped every word they got from the 'excluded' media houses and websites, whether true or false.

New Gambia demands the government opening up to allow the media to hold it accountable to the people in accordance with section 207 of the Constitution. How can the government be held accountable by the media if media personnel are to be screened before they are allowed to hold them accountable.

Foroyaa will closely monitor the situation to see whether engaging the state would make it either give a clear explanation or change its decision.

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