An Open Letter to President Adama Barrow
“Uneasy lies a head that wears a crown”
As a concerned citizen, I deem it fitting to put my thoughts to you through this open letter with regards to your statement on Koriteh Day, 2 May 2022. Sir, I am gripped with fear that your statement and threat to Madi Jobarteh, will reopen the floodgates of suppression and repression that the citizens had relentlessly battled to overcome in December 2016, when the majority of the Gambian population stood together unbent and “Decided” to end tyranny and self – perpetual rule by giving you the mandate to be President of our beloved nation.
Sir, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deed could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings….”. Indeed Sir, it is absolutely true that “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.
Sir, “criticism” is an honest word, it is not impregnated by hate or falsehood, rather it bears the hallmarks of self- belief, openness and fairness. Thus, it is indeed healthy for your government to be criticised. Democracy in itself was founded under the basis of criticism. I am very much convinced that you will not want to rule over a country where everyone bows his or her head to you in whatever you say or do. There will be something fundamentally wrong if every Gambian agrees with you in everything that you do. In short you are not perfect and hence cannot be exempted from criticism.
Sir, we are all just human, characterised by imperfection. It is evident all over the world that “great men” and more so politicians find it very difficult to accept criticism. Perhaps this is part of human nature. Being criticised can be very difficult to handle and we often fall into the erroneous trap of judging our critics harshly and negatively, even though on a second thought some of the issues that they express are critical to the very existence of our nation. Sir, I would rather entertain my worst critique than to romance with the blindfolded praise singer who glorifies every word and action of mine even when I pronounce death to my critics. We would rather be saved by criticisms than be ruined by prises clouded with selfishness, greedy, bigotry and prejudice.
Sir, noting that Madi Jobarteh had recently received a letter from the lawyers of one of your ministers, I am again gripped with fear that your utterances and threats to Madi Jobarteh and your insistence that “your government” will look into his affairs, will have a profound impact if Madi should ever appear in court under the charges of defamation. Sir, like the letter that Madi Jobarteh has received from the lawyers, your threat on Madi Jobarteh is also equally a direct assault on freedom of expression, media freedom and the rights of the citizenry to receive information.
Sir, you have also singled out journalists for giving a “platform” to Madi Jobarteh. This in my view have grave consequences as it is an attempt on your side to indicate or dictate to the media who should appear on their platforms. Your utterances against journalists and the media are extremely dangerous and unwelcomed as they have the potential to erode public confidence in the independent media which is detrimental to our democratic gains. Sir, you have no power in a functional democracy to decide who appears on any media platform. In fact you even have no power to decide who appears on State Media if you call yourself a democrat and a respecter of the importance of divergent views. Any attempt on your part therefore, to silence critical media outlets will be erroneous and undemocratic. The slant of any report or statement belongs to the gatekeepers and they must be allowed to utilise them as they deem fit in the public interest.
The dissemination of divergent views must be respected and held sacred. Sir, in castigating journalists in giving a platform to Madi, you have unwarrantedly decided to score an off side goal and wilfully decided to hit your critique below the belt. Come to think of it, officials of your government are equally given access to media platforms by the same journalists that you have decided to take to the cleaners. Your praise singers have equally polluted our airwaves with poisonous rhetoric, blatant propaganda and disinformation that is completely devoid from the realities of the times, yet still it will be unfair for any citizen including myself to call on the media or journalists to blackout your praise singers. Mainstream media cannot be cajoled into submission in a democratic society. A free and independent media is the life blood of a democratic state that supplies the oxygen needed by the citizens to breath by informing the public and holding you accountable.
As we celebrate World Press Freedom today, I would like to call on you to continue to strive to create an enabling environment for the media most especially the independent media to flourish and to ensure that the media continue to play its role in mobilising the citizenry for democratic participation.
“For the Gambia our Homeland”.
Pa Louis Thomasi.