The decision came after strong complaints and the threat of a boycott from the IFJ and its national affiliate, the Gambian Press Union (GPU), who jointly condemned the plan as an attempt to silence and intimidate the media and lobbied the authorities to drop the scheme.
Under the plan, every journalist who wanted to apply for accreditation to cover the presidency needed to go through a selection process under the supervision of the State Intelligence Services (SIS) "as part of press accreditation procedures". Both the IFJ and GPU called for journalists to boycott the new selection process arguing that journalists must be allowed to work freely and without any form of surveillance.
In a meeting with GPU executive members at the State House on April 1st, Amie Bojang Sissoho, the Gambian Director of Press and Public Relations, announced that the plan was being dropped after consultation with stakeholders. She also confirmed to the GPU that the screening process, which was scheduled to start on Monday morning, "was developed with goodwill and its only objective was to get to know the people covering the presidency because it is a sensitive office."
Journalists who applied for accreditation will now be accredited without going through any form of SIS screening.
Reacting to the new development, the GPU President, Sheriff Bojang Jr. said: "It's in the interest of both parties that the plan to screen journalists in this manner is abandoned. Forcing journalists to appear before a panel of NIA/SIS agents would have been a very bad idea."
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "We welcome the government's decision to reverse its plan to screen journalists by its intelligence agency and congratulate the GPU for its work on defending media freedom in The Gambia. We call on authorities to consult the GPU before adopting any law that could affect the free exercise of journalism in the country".
For more Information, please contact the IFJ - Africa Office
1st Floor, Maison de la Presse, 5 Rue X Corniche, Medina,
BP 64257, Dakar, Senegal
Tel: +221- 33 867 95 86/87; Fax: +221- 33 827 02