Thursday, November 25, 2010

British Politicians’ Calls for Press Freedom in Gambia


Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) Politicians in Scotland have added their voices to calls for the enforcement of press freedom and human rights in The Gambia.
At the all-party gathering held by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Glasgow, Scotland politicians pledged their support for press freedom and human rights in The Gambia.
The aim of the meeting was for members of the National Union of Journalists to question the general election candidates on media, press freedom and trade unions rights and on the future of Scotland's creative industries and broadcasting developments.
Candidates vying for the Glasgow Central seat at the Westminster Parliament attended the meeting and pledged their support for the National Union of Journalists' international campaign for the enforcement of press freedom and human rights in The Gambia and elsewhere in the world.
Journalists asked about Gambia's media environment, if the political parties would support the union's international campaign for press freedom in The Gambia and elsewhere in the world.
Anas Sarwar, the Labour Party candidate for Glasgow Central has been supportive of the campaign already as evidenced by his presence last year at a vigil in Glasgow in support of the seven Gambian journalists who were jailed on charges of 'sedition'.

At the meeting he said: "I was happy to support the demonstration last year organised to highlight the plight of the seven Gambian journalists. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century that governments’ in some parts of the world are still against free speech and freedom of the press. This is an issue I will take to the Westminster Parliament if I am elected."

Mr. Sarwar subsequently won the seat. At the meeting he pledged his support for the NUJ campaign and said that the Labour Government is proud of the Department for International Development (DFID) which creates opportunities in developing countries.

Alastair Whitelaw, the Scottish Green Party Candidate said his party fully supports freedom of the press in The Gambia and elsewhere. He considered it important to name governments who are enemies of free speech and who imprison journalists for exercising their rights. "We the Green Party have a record second to none
in promoting free speech.

We support democracy and the increasing of UK international aid to developing countries. We also support the development of renewable energy which is particularly important to these countries." Christopher Young, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said that without an open press, governments would not be judged properly.

"Denying press freedom is an abuse of government power. We need to find ways of encouraging good governance as part of our foreign policy. I am not sufficiently informed to be able to recommend any specific course of action in the case of The Gambia," he said.

Conservative John Bradley explained that the Tory Party supports freedom of the press in The Gambia and elsewhere. At the same time, he paid tribute to journalists who work in hostile environments.
James Nessitt of the Scottish Socialist Party said: "Of course I am in complete solidarity with the National Union of Journalists and journalists in The Gambia for the enforcement of press freedom and human rights in The Gambia". 

He continued: "I believe a lot could be done for press freedom and human rights in general in The Gambia if the governments of the US, France and the UK stopped propping up corrupt regimes in West Africa. Establishing press freedom is the work of The Gambian people not imperialist governments," he
concluded.

Findlay Archibald of the Pirates' Party said: "I believe freedom of the press must be championed on a global level. The internet is now starting to give people the ability to publish their view without fear of persecution. For that reason the Pirates' party strives to ensure the internet and the press remains free and anonymity is preserved."

The guest speaker at the meeting was the Union's Deputy General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet. She explained the NUJ election pledges to the parliamentary candidates and invited them to support them. The event was moderated by Peter Murray, President of the National Union of Journalists.

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