Fatoumatta: Journalists worldwide, including the Gambia, will celebrate World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2020. The day is set aside by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991. On this World Press Freedom Day, citizens of the world pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives and are unjustly imprisoned while following their passion for exposing the truth.
However, in a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right is not guaranteed. Freedom of the press is a prerequisite for any flourishing democracy. The free flow of information and access to uncensored material serves as a check against censorship by the government. By nurturing and protecting this fundamental right, free peoples achieve democratic improvements in their societies.
Unfortunately, worldwide, some governments continue to violate press freedom. In these nations, journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics have been imprisoned and even murdered while attempting to report the truth. It should be clear to all politicians that no government, whatever its pretensions or accomplishments, can legally claim respect if its citizens are not allowed to say what they believe or denied the right to learn about events and decisions that affect their lives. A country without a free and independent press is nothing to brag about, has nothing to teach, and has no way to fulfill its potential.
Fatoumatta: The communication and Information Minister must urgently increase efforts towards creating the necessary media reforms and conditions for promoting the pluralistic media in The Gambia. Press freedom has never been as threatened as “highly toxic” media-bashing Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of rule. Therefore, the government must act to secure press freedom by repealing draconian press laws that are inimical to press freedom and end the public demonization of critical journalists, muckrakers, and Whistleblowers.