Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“Self Censorship Is Inimical…” Says Media Chief

As Press Freedom Remains A Concern

VOL:1 ISSN:34 “To hesitate to write or say anything which one is convinced to be the truth is to engage in self censorship. Self censorship is inimical to freedom of the media in particular and freedom of expression in general,” the Editor-In-Chief of Foroyaa Newspaper has said.
Mr. Sam Sarr was presenting a paper on “Media law and Freedom of Expression” using the GPU trial as a case study, at the ongoing five-day training programme for human rights journalists.
He added that the media is the chancel through which a person communicates to the public, be it the radio, television, newspaper, internet, mobile phone, etc. Hence without a free media there can be no freedom of expression.

He told the participants that freedom of expression is the freedom of every person to express their view. It is the freedom to seek for and receive information. One can express his or her views through speech, writing, photographs, films, drawings retaliation, singing, dancing among other things. “Freedom of expression is therefore the freedom of a writer, a journalist an artist, a singer, a dancer, a school master, a youth, a woman, a politician and any person for that matter to seek, receive or express his or her views on any matter,” he explained.
He said that if a journalist to hesitate to publish the lies of a minister when he or she has a recording of the minister’s statement and to flee the country because of fear of his or her life is an indication of the lack of freedom of expression.
According to him, when a journalist has the facts and is afraid to publish it that in itself exposes the lack of freedom of expression, adding that the pursuit of freedom expression is not campaign against a government and does not pose a threat to the security of a country.
On the contrary, he said that it is an essential component in any democratic process as freedom of expression ensures the free flow of information which serves as the bedrock of a well informed society. He pointed out that freedom of expression also ensures the scrutiny of the holders of public office and public institutions to ensure transparency and accountability, which would in turn empower the people and enable them - make informed decisions.
“This encourages responsive government and good governance,” he said.
On Media Laws in The Gambia, he said, ‘we shall now examine the laws in The Gambia regarding the media and whether they inhibit or promote freedom of expression.’ He noted that the constitution is the supreme law and all other laws in The Gambia shall consistent with it.
“The Constitution stipulates in section 25 subsection (1) (a) that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media,” he told human right journalists. He further states in section 207 that “The freedom and independence of the press and other information media is hereby guaranteed.”
He said that this is a clear indication that the Constitution recognizes that without a free media, freedom of expression cannot be guaranteed. Further more, he said freedom of expression will be meaningless if the media cannot scrutinize holders of public office and public institutions.
Hence section 207 subsection (3) of the Constitution states that “the press and other information media shall at all times be free to uphold principles, provision and objectives of this constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of the Gambia.”
The provision of section 208 of the Constitution deals with the responsibility of the state owned media. It states: “All state owned newspapers, journals, radio and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion.”
He noted that Section 37 subsection (1) of the Constitution also make provision for the protection of fundamental rights. In short, if one’s freedom of expression is violated that person is entitled to seek redress from the high court.
Needless to say, these rights and freedoms can only be protected by judiciary if it is independent and impartial and if the executive respect those rights and freedoms and the independent of the judiciary.

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