News / Africa

Observers Get Mixed Signals on Gambian Press Freedom

Protesters gather outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal to demand President Yahya Jammeh halt the mass execution of prisoners, August 30, 2012.
Protesters gather outside the Gambian embassy in Senegal to demand President Yahya Jammeh halt the mass execution of prisoners, August 30, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Nancy Palus
— Press freedom activists are condemning the shutdown of two private newspapers in Gambia, saying it confirms what they call President Yahya Jammeh's "ruthless opposition" to a free, independent press. Just days after the papers' closure Jammeh announced that he would allow an investigation into the death and disappearance of two prominent journalists. But observers are skeptical of the offer and say it's the newspaper crackdown that shows the Gambian leader's true colors.
 
At least on the surface, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has sent out mixed signals in recent days over press freedom.
 
Following a September 17 meeting with U.S. rights activist Jesse Jackson, Jammeh said he would allow the United Nations to investigate the 2004 death of journalist Deyda Hydara and the 2006 disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, according to a statement by the U.S. embassy in the capital, Banjul.
 
Days earlier, Gambian authorities arrested two journalists and summarily shut down their newspapers. Gambian press organizations and the Committee to Protect Journalists say the newspapers - The Standard and the Daily News - have extensively covered opposition to the government’s recent execution of nine death row inmates.  
 
Gambian journalists say the two papers are important sources of independent reporting in Gambia, where only a small percentage of the country's 1.7 million people regularly see the more vibrant press coverage available on the Internet.
 
The International Federation of Journalists, or IFJ, on Wednesday said the crackdown on the newspapers confirms Gambia’s “unfortunate reputation of media predator, totally resistant to media pluralism and liberties.”
 
A Gambian government press officer said he did not yet have any details about the papers’ closure.
 
IFJ, which has long called for light be shed on the cases of journalists Manneh and Hydara, is also urging the United Nations to take up President Jammeh’s offer to investigate.
 
"We consider the key is in the hands of the United Nations to help investigate these cases and provide credible information, considering its role with regard to respect for the freedom of the press and democracy," says Sadibou Marong, who is with IFJ’s Africa office in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
 
He said IFJ would like to see more concrete steps from President Jammeh, like making official notice to the United Nations of his intention to have an investigation.
 
But Jammeh probably does not intend to move forward, say Gambian journalists in exile in neighboring Senegal.
 
Journalist Ebrima Sillah says Jammeh’s talk of allowing a probe is just a ploy to buy time amid heightened pressure by the international community over human rights.
 
"Jammeh knows that now the pressure on him, even from within, is getting stronger and stronger," says Sillah. "People are now getting impatient and the regime, being good at this kind of propaganda, are now trying to come up with this cosmetic announcement to hoodwink the people and the international community.  But I believe that the international community should not fall prey to this propaganda, to this insult to people’s intelligence."

President Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994, has long faced charges of human rights violations and abuses of press freedom.
 
Ebrima Sillah says recent developments in Gambia should have Gambians and the international community stepping up pressure on the leader.
 
"The pressure should be reinforced," says Sillah. "We should all speak with clear and unequivocal voice [to say] look, what is happening is unacceptable and the world is not going to stand by. If it happens in The Gambia and nothing comes of it, you have other mad dictators on the continent who will follow the same thing, which means we are setting a very bad precedent."
 
During the meeting with Jesse Jackson, President Jammeh also reaffirmed a moratorium on executions, put in place after international pressure when the government put nine inmates to death last month. And he released two Gambian-Americans held on accusations of treason.

The U.S. embassy says Jackson was there as a private citizen and guest of the Gambian government to discuss human rights in the country.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Freedom
September 21, 2012 11:10 AM
What about Zimbabwe,now that a really serious human rights issue, which is always "side stepped" by so many Governments and the UN, mmm moving on mmm

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid