|GPU Secretary General, Gibairu Janneh, speaks at a Coco Cola-organised media event in Gambia (Photo Credit: MSJoof/TNBES/2013)|
It also welcomes the president’s lifting of the ban on the privately-owned media houses Taranga FM and The Standard newspaper.
On New Year’s Eve, the Office of the President announced it is lifting the ban on [The] Standard newspaper and Taranga FM with immediate effect “as a goodwill gesture for the New Year ”. However, it falls short of mentioning The Daily News which was shutdown along with the daily English-language paper, The Standard, on 14 September 2012.
“The GPU welcomes the Gambian leader’s decision to allow Taranga FM and The Standard newspaper to resume operations. In [the] same spirit of the New Year, we wish to call on the Gambian leader to allow the remaining closed newspaper, The Daily News to also resume operation,” the journalists’ body said on January 5.
“This progressive move will undoubtedly pave a way for the proprietor of Taranga FM and the publisher of [The] Standard Newspaper to partake in the socio-economic development of the country and as well employ young Gambian[s] to earn a livelihood,” added GPU’s Secretary General Gibairu Janneh.
Meanwhile, both media houses 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 presidency stated on December 31, 2013.
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.
At the time, 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 a daily news broadcast 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 reviewing what they described as “opposition newspapers.” The radio was running its most popular daily broadcast by reviewing content on local English-language newspapers.
The Standard and The Daily News 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 shutdown, The Daily News halted its print version but continues to publish online.
The proprietors of the media houses said no reason was given for the forceful shutdown. 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.
Government-media relations in The Gambia have not been cordial over the years; nonetheless there were rare exchanges of New Year wishes. “We wish all media houses and the general public a happy new year,” Jammeh’s office stated. “We wish the Gambia leader, the first family and the entire country a happy New Year,” the GPU wrote reciprocally.
This story first appeared on Front Page International (FPI)
Written by Modou S. Joof
Follow on Facebook: The-North-Bank-Evening-Standard