Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gambia lifts ban on two media houses, one remain closed

President Yahya Jammeh said "the two institutions are urged to operate within the framework of the laws governing the media in this country." (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
The President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, has lifted the ban on two privately-owned media houses, The Standard newspaper and Taranga FM (radio) on December 31, 2013, while a third newspaper, The Daily News, that was shut along with the two remained closed. 

At the time, the proprietors of the media houses said no reason was given for the forceful shutdown. 

In a press release via State media, the Office of the President said it is pleased to inform the general public that the ban on [The] Standard newspaper and Taranga FM has been lifted with immediate effect. 

According to the presidency, the move is “a goodwill gesture for the New Year [2014]” but they must continue to operate in a media environment which is regarded “hostile” and under media laws that rights groups say are “draconian.”  

“They are free to operate but the two institutions are urged to operate within the framework of the laws governing the media in this country,” the presidential statement stated. “We wish all media houses and the general public a happy new year.”

Taranga, a community radio which broadcasts on the FM band 97.5, was closed on August 14, 2012 following a raid on its offices by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Similarly, The Standard and The Daily News were arbitrarily closed, without any court order exactly a month later, on September 14, 2012.
Rights groups said the closure of the three media houses brings undue interference in press freedom and freedom of expression and deprived Gambians of their rights to know and to have access to information.

Prior to its closure, Taranga FM (The voice echoing from Kombo North) had been running daily news broadcasts known as Xibari Besbi (news of the day) in local languages (Wolof and Mandinka) for the benefit of the vast majority of uneducated Gambians. 

Situated at Sinchu Alhagie village, Kombo North District, south-west of The Gambian capital, Banjul, Taranga was earlier closed for up to a month in 2011 and ordered by the authorities to stop its news review of “opposition newspapers.” At the time, the privately-owned radio was running a very popular daily broadcast reviewing content on local English-language newspapers. 

The Standard, a daily English-language newspaper and The Daily News, a tri-weekly English-language publication, were closed while covering sensitive political issues including the August 2012 execution of nine death row inmates by The Gambia Government. 

Both newspapers provided the platform for pro and anti government views on the executions and other critical national issues – traits required of independent and impartial journalism. Following the closure, The Daily News halted its print version but continues to publish online.

Taranga FM is owned by Ismaila Ceesay, also a proprietor of Insight Training Centre,  The Standard by senior journalist Sheriff Bojang and The Daily News by Madi MK Ceesay, a press freedom award winning senior journalist.

Written by Modou S. Joof

 

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