By Omar Bah
The Gambia’s Minister of Information, Ali Demba Jawo has said that former President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year regime has left a fragile relationship and suspicion between journalists and the security forces.
Minister Jawo made these remarks yesterday at the opening of a three-day training of Gambian security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists at the Djembe Beach Hotel in Kololi.
“The onus is on all of us to change this ugly past to better and improve the linkage between these two vital institutions of our dear country,” he said.
The Minister said the unfortunate arrests, torture, disappearance and killings of journalists in the former regime including forced exile of media personnel and other voices of dissent were clear manifestations that the former regime was hostile to the media.
“Given the fact that most of those persecutions were rightly or wrongly blamed on security forces, the need to enlighten each other on the role of security forces in a democratic state is very crucial,” he added.
Minister Jawo further noted that both Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights promote and safeguard the rights of journalists and as such, “we are all duty-bound to uphold the principles enshrined in both articles.”
He said the role of the media as the Fourth Estate in any democratic process has been universally accepted and that the new Gambia will not be an exception.
“The government under the leadership of President Adama Barrow has put the empowerment of the media, access to information and freedom of expression as a policy objective.Therefore trust and confidence among the media, security forces and the community has to be at the forefront of this policy.
“It is expected that after the end of this training security forces will no longer victimise journalists but instead be their protectors,” he concluded.