Gambia: GPU President Welcomes Reopening of Radio Stations With Mixed Feelings

Sherriff Bojang Jnr, the President of the Gambia Press Union has told the Ministers of Justice and Information that the opening of Home Digital FM and King FM is welcoming, but the Union wants more from them.

Ebrima Sillah, the Minister of Information together with Abubakar Tambadou, the Minister of Justice on Tuesday held a meeting with the Gambia Press Union at the National Human Rights Commission Secretariat in Kotu to discuss the closure of the two radio stations.

The two radio stations were closed by paramilitary personnel who stormed the two stations and asked them to cease operation on the 26th January 2020.

Sheriff Bojang Jnr, the President of the Gambia Press Union described the step by the government to reopen the two stations as a positive one. He said they came to the meeting with some issues that they put to the Government including the opening of the radio stations.

"We have to admit frankly, that mistake was committed. We felt that the Government, in this case, exercised powers that it never had; that has to be clear and this is our point of view as the Gambia Press Union," Bojang said.

Bojang said the due process of law wasn't followed and the closure of the two radio stations was arbitrary (unlawful). He said the GPU will continue to pursue their demands, in this case, to ensure that justice is done to the two radio stations.

Bojang Jnr. said: "The opening of the two radio stations and the dropping of the charges are good, but our position is we need more than that. The idea is not just to close the radio stations and reopen them. The idea is to send a signal to whoever abused these powers which they never had , never to do it again."

Bojang said whenever a media house is to be closed, due process of law should be followed.

Ba Tambadou, the Minister of Justice said the Gambia Government attaches importance to freedom of expression and this was why he came together with the Minister of Information to discuss with the GPU with regard to the closure of the two radio stations.

"We have held discussion with the Gambia Press Union and the Government has taken the decision to reopen the two radio stations that were closed around 26th January and to drop all charges against the journalists who were arrested as a consequence," Tambadou said.

He said: "what we wish to say is, we have all learnt lessons from this episode; members of the GPU and Government. As we seek to strengthen our democracy, there will be shortcomings not just only on the part of the government, but also every other section of Gambian society including media practitioners."

He added: "What is important is that when there are differences; when there are issues to thrash out, we engage one another, we discuss and resolve them."

He said: "We are not promising a perfect government. We are not promising a perfect democracy. There will be challenges. There will be shortcomings. The important thing is to remedy and resolve those challenges when they occur."

He said both the Government and the GPU have learnt lessons to avoid the repetition of such in the country.

"The radio stations will be opened today (yesterday)," Tambadou said.

Ba Tambadou said he won't admit nor deny the statement by the GPU President that due process of law was not followed.

Emmanuel Joof, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission said they were visited by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Ministers of Justice and Information to talk about the closure of the two radio stations that were locked in January. He said the NHRC with the mandate to promote and protect human rights, investigate, monitor and receive complaints about human rights violation. He added that the Commission mediated between the GPU and the Gambia Government until an agreement was reached.

Pa Modou Bojang, the proprietor of Home Digital FM expressed disappointment with the Government saying they were not told the reasons for the closure of his radio stations.

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