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Concerns about Attack on Journalists: GPU Engages Political Parties to End Assaults against Journalists

The Gambia Press Union engaged all 16 political parties with the aim of fostering understanding between journalists and political parties to end assault against journalists by political party supporters.

Journalists have recently been facing issues of attacks from political party supporters in the process of executing their work.

“Oftentimes especially after the change, what we’ve realized are that quite a number of attacks on journalists come from political party supporters. This is very important because we believe that attacks stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of journalists and media practitioners as it relates to how they do their work. So having a dialogue, having a communication between the media and those institutions is very fundamental to our collective understanding of our very respective roles” said Mustapha K. Darboe, Vice President of the Gambia Press Union.

Kebba Jeffang, then with Foroyaa Newspaper, was physically assaulted by in 2017 by UDP, NRP and GMC supporters

The dialogue is part of a three year project of the GPU’s to enhance safety of journalists and rule of law and to open frank discussion between political parties and journalists as to what they think journalists are not doing right.

“I would take it there is a misunderstanding when it comes to political parties and journalists,” said Dodou Jah, Deputy Spokesperson and Secretary of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction APRC. “Some seem to take them as an enemy on both ends. There are certain journalists who see some political parties as they need not exist especially you talk about those that have existed in the past, their experiences coming across like our own party when we were in government, they feel we have harassed , arrested and torture journalists and the likes.”

Jah however also believes that certain political parties don’t feel that journalists are conveying the right message that they want, hence the animosity.

Dodou Jah

“But again some journalists need to know in as much as they have the right to their work, and how they execute their functions; they should also respect the rights of individuals and groups. You can’t carry certain stories without the knowledge or the consent of the individual” Jah said

John Moses, Representative of Citizen’s Alliance Party, believes the problem between political parties and journalists has to do with headlines. “We are politicians; journalists are actually a reflection of everybody. If a journalist becomes a politician and an activist at the same, your headlines would be affected.” Moses believes most issues between journalists and political parties are as a result of journalists being politicians and at the same an activist.

Tida Kijera of the Gambia Moral Congress is of the view that journalists should be fair and treat all parties equally and not to select which political party to talk to base on which party is bigger or has more supporters. She urges journalists to be fair and give equal opportunity to all parties in their various mediums and talk shows.

Lamin Njie, a journalist and editor with the Standard Newspaper said journalists are not “busy body people” who would poke into other people’s affairs, but the very constitution that establishes political parties is the same constitution that establishes the media as an independent fourth estate to hold leaders to account.

Political parties and GPU discussing how to foster uniting and end assaults against journalists

“That constitution had also outlined the functions and modus operandi of that media after providing for its establishment. It has outlined cornerstone principles of how it should operate and one of those cardinal principles is free and independent. It means that the media should be able to gather information and disseminate it free from cohesion, free from intimidation, free from influence of other interest.”

Participants are hopeful that this dialogue would avail understanding of politics to sensitize their party supporters in ending crimes and assault against journalists.

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