Forgotten World Press Day & Loud Echoes Of Gambia’s Media Silence


By Mathew K Jallow


Last week, one seminal issue captured the imagination of many Gambians, and for once, it was not about Yahya Jammeh, yet about him. Confused? I will explain. The TANGO and GPU World Press Day, commemorated with fanfare and perhaps even implicit apoplexy, was the rage of the week. In many ways, the two institutions share a common conceptual framework that speaks loudly and eloquently to the voiceless in a society circumscribed by the agony of abandonment and disillusion. The ideals that define the work of TANGO and GPU are concepts brought to life by altruism and moral rectitude, which by nature and character, challenges the totalitarianism and mindlessness of absolute state power. The selfless characters that both institutions represent, showcases an epic battle for the heart and soul of a people; fought to empower the spirit to latch onto to the miracle of hope and inevitable political transformation. The TANGO and GPU union can thus, moving forward, either be a match made in heaven or merely an ephemeral indulgence in absolute fantasy. Either way, from what it seems, the World Press Day commemoration, though grounded by an organic quest for intellectual liberty, was truly more an occasion for bureaucratic symbolism than a true determination for the practical exercise of the constitutional rights of both TANGO and GPU. For me, even in pictures, so distant in space, the event also bore a different sub-text marked by emotions and nostalgia for a time so long gone. The sight of James Gomez, former Banjul Mayor, represents the common Catholic nexus we share and which brings back a past that so often emerges surreptitiously in my imagination.


Then there was Ousman Yarboe, an acquaintance from so long ago, and my old buddy, the unflappable Kemo Conteh, who, between the two, share an unchallenged and  unbroken duty to country; a duo whose patriotism stands out as a beacon of hope in a place inhabited by the corpses of dead dreams. The World Press Day commemoration was clearly a statement of principle; unbending, civic, yet political in the sense that it touched on a raw nerve; the state’s Achilles heels. What the World Press Day symbolized was the realization of a Frankenstein set loose to curtail the liberty of a nation, and TANGO and GPU, as in Batman and Robin, in their own small way, set out to mitigate the hazardous consequences of the perennial political subterfuge and insidious moral bankruptcy in Gambian society. But the TANGO and GPU World Press Day event in commemoration of the UN Declaration articulating acceptable standards of journalism around the globe, known as the ‘Declaration of Windhoek’, was not the only game in town. The Thione Seck entanglement had long ago fizzled out and dissipated into thin air, but a new controversy around Yusu Ndour’s was brewing and beginning to gradually caulk into the consciousness of a nation. Nonetheless, the argument whether he ought to serenade Yahya Jammeh or not, spun a diversity of opinions, and for a moment in time, obscured the broader aspirations where the objective consensus for political change remains firmly etched in the Gambian mind. The Gambia’s political sycophancy, far from being the lament for a lost cause, is perpetual rejuvenating the Gambian will to be free; an anathema that contrasts everything the regime stands for. One thing is certain, Senegalese entertainers will always choose to pursue the Darwinian law of survival, and any attempt to dissuade them is more akin to talking to a brick-wall. For many, self-interest always trumps the broader societal agenda, and Senegalese entertainers by no means have hegemony in this developing social anomaly.


Perhaps the most significant issue of the recent past had direct correlation to both the TANGO and GPU joint meeting and the Youssou Ndure and Thione Seck unflattering exploitation of Yahya Jammeh’s orgy of waste and unilateralism. What stands out so clearly in all this moral argument is Yahya Jammeh’s unyielding determination to cement his name in the Gambia’s unwritten history. And as the country teeters on the brink of social and economic paralysis, and the arch of history summons Gambians to muster the courage to absolutely reject marginalization from their citizenship, the calls for greater Constitutional rights will continue to echo more loudly and more broadly. But nothing draws this need into proper focus than the unilateral border closure two weeks ago. Gambia’s; but more accurately, Yahya Jammeh’s closure of the Senegal and Gambia border was not sanctioned by the Gambian people, and was completely out of sync with the true cultural affinity with Senegal, which predates the colonial legacy of territorial boundaries, and its dire effects limiting the scope of cross-border social, cultural and economic interactions. But the deeper implications of the Gambia’s affinity with the concept of constant crisis and chaos, underscores the regime’s ignorance of the machinery of government and the concept of governing. For the brief period the border was closed without a sensible reason, the economic loss to both Senegal and Gambia was spectacular, and further proves the existential threat Yahya Jammeh poses to the undefined, yet solid fraternity between Senegal and Gambia. What is so clear in all the three cases of neglect is the nagging problems that Yahya Jammeh epitomizes in the unending administrate abuse; bruising economic cannibalization and dramatic political malpractice that constantly grips the Gambia. 

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