Saturday, May 4, 2013

Concerns of Gambian journalists left out in Info Minister’s Press Freedom Day speech

By Lamin Jahateh

Nana Grey Johnson, Info Minister
Key concerns of journalists in The Gambia were glaringly left out in the Press Freedom Day speech of the newly appointed Minister of Communications and Information Infrastructure, Nana Grey Johnson.
At the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2013 at TANGO conference hall on Bertil Harding Highway, journalists in The Gambia expected that Communications Minister Nana Grey Johnson’s statement will touch on pressing issues of the media fraternity such as the closure of media houses like Taranga FM, Daily News and Standard newspapers in 2012. 

Journalists expected that Mr Johnson, a veteran journalist, would say something about the possibility of government reviewing the media laws in the country, as well as enacting a freedom of information bill, as it has been done in some other countries in Africa. 
The executive director of the GPU, Gibairu Janneh, said the media fraternity was optimistic that Mr Johnson’s appointment - as he is au fait with the ups and downs of journalists in The Gambia – “will signify the beginning of a new beginning” in enlarging the space for media freedom in The Gambia.

Madi Jobarteh, programme manager of TANGO – an umbrella body of civil societies in The Gambia including the GPU – emphasised that with the appointment of  Mr Johnson, the media fraternity was expecting that the closed media houses will be opened; expecting the media laws or laws that are not compatible with free speech and media to be reviewed. 

“We are happy of his presence (at the World Press Freedom Day commemoration) and we think he is going to turn a new page and see Gambian media fulfilling its constitutional responsibility,” Mr Jobarteh said.

The constitution of the land places an obligation on the media to hold The Gambia government accountable to the people of the country, he said. 

However, he noted, the media is finding it virtually impossible  to do this because of the self-censorship among the journalists each trying to avoid falling into the traps of the law on defamation and sedition. 

However, none of these burning issues or concerns and expectations of journalists were mentioned in the marathon speech of the communications minister. 

In essence, he focused on the lack of capacity of journalists in the country and their unprofessionalism. 

After delivering his speech, Mr Johnson immediately left the gathering without entertaining any comments or questions from the audience.