November 2nd is a United Nations recognised day observed globally, to draw attention to the issue of impunity for crimes against journalists.
Journalists are targets of violent crimes for speaking truth to power and giving voice to the voiceless. Justice is denied in majority of those cases.
In 2018 alone, an estimated 94 journalists and media workers died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents, according to the International Federation of Journalist (IFJ).
The President of the Gambia Press Union, Mr Sheriff Bojang Jr., said: “For us in The Gambia, this year’s commemoration comes in the face of an ongoing transitional justice process after twenty-two years of dictatorship.
“There is also a constitutional building process and media and freedom of expression law reforms process.
Having just gone through the process of exposing the extent of press freedom violations, some senselessly gruesome, the country should provide entrenched protections for the safety of journalists and pursue justice where violations occur.”
In July this year, members of a hit-squad called Junglers confessed to the killing in 2004 of Deyda Hydara, a former GPU president and editor of The Point.
This was during hearings at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which is currently looking into the human rights violations of the government of President Jammeh.
More than two dozen journalists and families of journalists testified to the brutalities meted out on them by the state. The forms of violations include murder, enforced disappearance, torture, assault, arson attacks and closure of media houses, arrest, detention and deportation, which were often arbitrary in nature.
In this regard, the GPU calls on the state to pursue justice on those crimes that were committed against journalists.
We call on the TRRC to strive to establish further truth surrounding the enforced disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh and arson attacks on The Independent and Radio One FM.
While we continue to express appreciation for the payment of the prescribed compensation to families Chief Ebrima Manneh and Deyda Hydara, and to journalists Fatou Camara, Fatou Jaw Manneh, Alagie JOBE and Lamin Fatty, we wish to remind the government of its obligations under international law to pay compensation to Musa Saidykhan as ordered by the Ecowas court.
While we recognise the efforts of the government to address past violations, violent attacks on journalists and impunity remain a concern. Since the change of government, more than a dozen journalists were violently attacked, some injured.
Despite several efforts by the GPU, the police have failed to thoroughly investigate any of the incidents.
In this regard, on this auspicious occasion, we renew our call for the state to put in place measures and mechanisms aimed at promoting the safety of media workers.
On our part, during this month – November -, as part of events marking International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the GPU will carry out the following activities:
- training of trainers for journalists on safety of journalists.
- Adoption of safety manual for journalists
- media-security dialogue on safety of journalists
- Introduction of press cards and safety jackets
In a related but separate event, the GPU will hold a photo exhibition on attacks on press freedom, scheduled for December 16, in commemoration of the anniversary of the murder of Deyda Hydara.