Alagi Yorro Jallow
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 to expose the truth. In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right isn’t guaranteed to all.
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, all around the world there are governments that 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 whatever its accomplishments can fairly 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 no way to fulfill its potential.
According to Freedom House, press freedom declined to its lowest point in the last 12 years in 2017. Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys free press, while 46 percent live in “Not Free” press environments. The Gambia, remains among the most repressive in the world under Yahya Jammeh, falling into the category of “Worst of the Worst.” North Korea ranks number one for most repressive press freedom conditions.
The World Press Freedom Index 2017 is out and it’s not pretty for new Gambia’s record but Yahya’s Jammeh’s legacy is to be blamed. The Gambia slipped to 148 out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders — placing it in the same category as nations such as Myanmar, Turkey, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Palestine, the Philippines and South Sudan.
Demba Ali Jawo must urgently increase efforts towards creating the necessary media reforms and conditions for the promotion of the pluralistic media in The Gambia. Press freedom has never been as threatened as “highly toxic” media -bashing of Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years’ rule.
The government must act to secure press freedom by repealing draconian press laws that are inimical press freedom and end the public demonization of critical journalists.