The Gambia Press Union has called on “Gambians to stand with the union and all other stakeholders to demand the review of all laws that are inimical to free media as well as a complete halt to all practices that pose clear and direct danger to journalists.”
The union also demanded Gambians to support the media in every possible ways. “Let us always remember that any threat to a journalist, or a closure of a media house or the existence of an anti-media law invariably is a direct affront to our already guaranteed civil and political rights and a limitation to our ability to ensure transparency, accountability and responsiveness of not only the government, but also all institutions, organizations and processes in the public, private and civil society sectors.”
The Gambia Press Union’s message is contained in a statement it has issued on World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd. GPU however expressed its appreciation to all Gambians for their support to the media community. The union also extended kudos to all media practitioners in the country for their steadfastness and professionalism in carrying out their work amidst difficult challenges they face.
“GPU would like to call on the Gambia government, the private sector and the civil society as a whole to support the independence, development and professionalism of the media as well as freedom of expression in the Gambia,” the statement added, believing that “such gesture will not only serve to strengthen the peace and stability of the country, but will also enhance national development in all aspects, thereby making delivery of public services more efficient, accessible and available to all. GPU strongly believes that we can only ensure good and accountable governance and make public and private institutions and firms effective and relevant if we create the environment for free speech and free media to flourish at all times.”
In another development, the local union organized a symposium at Tango Hall in Fajara on Saturday.
In his presentation, the union’s 1st Vice President has extended message of solidarity with their Ethiopian colleagues who have become the latest victims of media crackdown. Baboucarr Ceesay condemns the Ethiopian government’s arrest and continued detention of journalists and bloggers and call for their unconditional release.
“Our hearts also beat in unison with the hearts of journalists experiencing unthinkable predicaments in Egypt, Somalia, Ukraine and journalists facing hard times and those who died in their duties in other parts of the world for doing their job and telling truth to power. This solidarity statement cannot be concluded without renewing our call on the government of The Gambia to respect the ECOWAS court’s verdict to produce and compensate Chief Ebrima Manneh who was arrested at his work place, Daily Observer since July 7, 2006 and since then his whereabouts remained unknown to the public, his family and colleagues.
The same court recommended for the compensation of Musa Saidykhan former editor at the arbitrarily closed The Independent newspaper who was arrested, detained and tortured in detention.”
Mr. Ceesay has renewed the call to bring to justice the killers of journalist Deyda Hydara and Omar Barrow who were both shot to death on December 16, 2004 and April 10, 2000, respectively.
“We also called on the Gambian authorities to re-open The Daily News which has been forced out of the newsstands for more than one year without any court order.
We are also calling on the government to review and repeal all draconian media laws to be in line with international standards.
We need a media environment free from intimidation, arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, disappearance, torture, killings and all forms human rights violations designed to gag the media in The Gambia.”