Independent press in Gambian lament plight

Banjul- Gambia (PANA) -- Even though the entire Gambian press received no assistance from the government to fully cover Thursday's presidential elections, journalists said they were performing without qualms.
The independent print media, especially the most widely-read Daily Observer and the two bi-weeklies, The Point and The Independent, have nonetheless covered rallies of candidates for the forthcoming presidential election.
Publishers said they have so far assigned reporters to cover campaign of the five candidates presidential at their own expense.
Reliable sources say the State categorically refused to subsidise the media in any form to cover the election campaign.
The sources further contend that even the government owned radio and television system, the Gambia Radio Television Services (GRTS), had to draw on its own resources to cover the event.
Sources close to the government argue, however, that any form of aid to the press might be seen by the public as an attempt to manipulate the media.
But most of the reporters dismissed the argument, saying the government rather wants to coerce them to succumb to its strategy of neutralisation.
Aladji Yoro Jallow, director of The Independent, said despite the shortage of financial resources, the paper was able to cover the political events very closely for its readers, "because now is the time to secure the loyalty to one's clients".
"We are not expecting anything from the Gambian State and we will continue to inform accurately and truly, even at the cost of our meagre resources accrued solely from sales," he added.
The director of the Point, Deyda Hydara, expressed admiration for the manner in which the Senegalese government funded the entire press during electoral campaigns and elections.
He said that was an indication of the "authorities' constant concern to assist the press in order to improve its working conditions during elections".
He suggested that Gambian legislators should pass a law empowering the State to provide "legislated aid" to the local press during presidential and general elections.
Gambian journalists have generally worked in a state of utter destitution since the military coup on 22 July 1994 by Yahya Jammeh though private radios and independent papers have mushroomed.
They are very often subjected to the regime's political mood whereby information is withheld by some sectors of the state apparatus.
The private press experiences a bumpy relation with the State which has been apprehensive in releasing information and at times censors information published by local papers.
Matters were made worse after the promulgation of decree 70, which has discretionary powers over issues regarding national defence, foreign policy, and privacy of the President.

16 october 2001 13:16:00

xhtml CSS