Gambia: Journalists Denied Entry at National Assembly!

16 September 2020

Former American politician and attorney, who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017, Barack Obama has said that change will not come 'if we wait for some other person or some other time.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek'. This clearly reminds us the erstwhile regime, when the media in the country was perceived. We are all living witnesses to some of the episodes when some private media were barred from covering state functions.

In 2017 when the country ushered in new democratic dispensation, many are expecting a new conductive environment when it comes to working condition of journalists in the country.

Since then, the working condition of journalists leaves much to be desired. From arrests to closure of media outlets and now barring them from covering important state function at the National Assembly.

On Monday scores of journalists who were at the National Assembly to cover the tabling of the Draft Constitution; except the national broadcaster- GRTS and two other private media houses, QTV and Eye Africa TV, were barred from entry to the house for proceedings.

The act did not only sabotage our new found freedom, but it's also in contravention and violations of fundamental rights of these journalists. Worst of it all is that it puts the integrity of the National Assembly at stake.

We should always remember hat press freedom is a prerequisite for the establishment of a functioning democratic system of government and fundamental human rights.

A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. And any decision to restrict media freedom is a threat to democracy.

The Assembly's decision to bar the media from covering these important state function is unjustified and misguided.

Therefore, the press must be free from state interference.

We are of the view that the Assembly's decision to grant some media especially state media entry, is in the first place discrimination to the core.

The move also violates a core value of our democracy: press freedom. The media must be allowed to operate freely without favour or interference.

Meanwhile, the claim made by some officials at the National Assembly that the reason to limit number of journalists was part of a broader move to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country.

But, the question is, these journalists have been covering parliamentary sitting since March when the country reported its first case. Why not limit the number then than now?

What people need to know is that the media is not the enemy of the people. We strive to be their voice. If at times we misinterpret or misrepresent information, we're open to corrections and criticism - mistakes arise and that's human nature. And the media exists not to keep their mouths shut and listen, but to speak out and inform.

We hope the Assembly will take note!

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