The Chronicle Gambia

Hamat Bah’s Misguided Views About Media and Civil Society

Hamat N.K Bah Party Leader NRP
As we get closer to voting day, Gambians will face a lot of shenanigans which will release a lot of disinformation intended to spread confusion and silence others to perpetuate selfish interests. The Minister of Tourism Hamat NK Bah has started today on West Coast Radio’s Coffee Time with Peter Gomez. On today’s show, Mr. Bah decided to attack the media and civil society to disparage them in a manner intended to undermine and silence media houses, journalists, CSOs, and activists.
As typical of such spin doctors and dishonest politicians, Hamat began by appearing to recognize the role of the media and civil society only to spend the rest of the time slandering them. He generally said the media are not professional while most CSOs and activists are partisan who hide under cover of civil society to criticize his government. He categorically said most of these activists belong to political parties.
Someone who is not well informed and smart may be carried by this disinformation and dishonesty by Hamat Bah. But a smart person would be interested to know from Hama Bah which media houses are not professional, and which CSOs or activists belong to which political party, and how does he know this? No serious journalist or activist should allow a politician to be throwing open-ended and vague castigations at them just like that.
After all, a journalist or an activist has a right to belong to any party of their choice. And those journalists and civil society activists who decided to join political parties have left the media and civil society to get into partisan politics. Some have even joined NPP and other parties, which is their right to do so. In fact, there are multiple media platforms online that advocate for Adama Barrow and his team, including Hamat Bah. So why don’t Hamat Bah try to close those first? Therefore, no journalist and activist need to hide behind anything to criticize a government. Why? For what? That thought is infantile, unintelligible, and nonsensical.
For example, Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray was in civil society. However, she left to join politics. So are Press Secretary Amie Bojang Sissoho and Majority Leader Kebba K Barrow, who were all activists. Minister of Information Ebrima Sillah was in the media, so as Government Spokesman Ebrima Sankareh left to join politics. So, what is Hamat NK Bah’s beef?
Therefore, what Hamat Bah is doing is all dishonest politicians do when they face accountability from the media and CSOs. Thus, Hamat’s issue is not really about journalists and activists hiding behind political parties. Instead, Hamat’s real issue is how he and his government are being criticized and scrutinized by journalists and CSOs, which they do not like. When dishonest politicians and corrupt governments face strong scrutiny, they immediately change the narrative by saying journalists and CSOs have an agenda.
We recall Yaya Jammeh and similar dictators who always try to label CSOs as foreign agents tasked to destabilize their country. They do this simply because they want to divert public attention away from what the journalists and CSOs are reporting: their corruption and inefficiency. Therefore, these dishonest politicians and leaders would employ such diversionary tactics by appealing to the sensibilities of the people who they think are so naive that they will buy the false and negative narratives they paint about the media and CSOs. By so doing, they make the people to distrust and despise journalists and civil society.
This is what another dishonest politician, Pres. Donald Trump of the USA was doing to the US media during his four horrible years of misrule. Because he wanted to hide his corruption and ineptitude from scrutiny, Trump did not spare even one stone to launch at those media houses and journalists that were putting his incompetent regime in the spotlight. In fact, Trump popularized the term ‘fake news’ as he wanted everyone to disbelieve the media. But the fact is that it was Trump who was, in fact, the champion of fake news.
Today, in the Gambia, too, Hamat Bah has assumed the role of a ‘fake news’ champion. Because his government is notoriously inefficient, disgustingly corrupt, and irresponsibly endangering the destiny of the Gambia, Hamat has decided to spread fake news by attacking the media and civil society in this country. His intention ultimately is to scare and silence journalists and activists so that no one will criticize and check him and his government ever again.
Indeed, Hamat knew the huge role the media and civil society played in the election of Pres. Adama Barrow and his Government. At that time, Hamat Bah was friendly with all those journalists and civil society activists castigating today. I remember many years ago how Hamat Bah and the critical politicians of yesterday were constant guests at TANGO and other CSO events on issues of human rights, democracy, and government accountability. Hamat Bah was often invited to TANGO and Gambia Press Union events, where he spoke about the bad governance and human rights abuses of the Jammeh regime. By that time, he valued the role and contribution of the media and civil society. 100%.
But because times and circumstances have changed in which Hamat Bah saw himself in a position of power today, he now decided to behave like Yaya Jammeh and Donald Trump. Today he has the temerity to castigate the media and civil society when it was the media and civil society, at home and abroad, that contributed immensely in making his access to power. As typical of ungrateful and dishonest politicians, Hamat now decides to vilify, demonize and insult journalists and activists for holding him and his government accountable.
I wish every media house, journalist, CSO, and activist, including TANGO and GPU, would take their time to adequately and fittingly respond to the falsities of Hamat NK Bah without delay. When we allow these kinds of useless and irresponsible petty talk to pass off unchallenged, we allow terrible lies to become the ‘truth.’ No politician in this Gambia has the moral authority to criticize the media and civil society in this country because the media and civil society had stood with them throughout.
Hamat Bah knows that, and he cannot now re-write history to falsify the reality and perpetuate his selfish interests. The Gambia has passed the stage where politicians can distort the facts and impose their false narratives on the people without challenge.
For The Gambia Our Homeland
Madi Jobarteh is Gambia Country Representative Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD)
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