By Landing Ceesay
Gambia Press Union programme manager has said that since 2017 political party supporters perpetrated most of the attacks on journalists.
“Today we are gathered to discuss two of the key concerns of the Gambia Press Union with our stakeholders, the political parties. These two key concerns are the safety of journalists and access to information. We know the election is approaching, stakes are high, enthusiasm is high, political parties are gearing up, their supporters are also preparing in the process.
“As far as the safety analysis of the GPU is concerned, we realize that the environment is not being best friends for journalists. It’s the least friendly for journalists in another word. Most of the attacks we are seeing, we keep reiterating this thing, most of them since the change of government in 2017, more than half of them are perpetrated by political party supporters,” Lamin Jahateh stated.
He said the GPU believes that the attacks on journalists by party supporters are perhaps based on their lacking understanding of each other’s role and responsibility.
The Gambia Press Union programme managermade these remarks earlier on 10th June 2021, at a local hotel in Senegambia during the media-political party’s seminar on the safety of journalists and access to information as the country entered its 2021-2023 electoral cycle.
“How can we discuss, to come together to a mutual understanding of our responsibilities is to have a seminar like this where we can dialogue. We will explain to you how we do our works perhaps you can also explain to us how you view us together we will agree at a mutual point by perhaps ahead of the 2021 presidential election, we will begin to see each other as partners, we will begin to see each of our responsibilities as complementary rather than opposing each other’s responsibility,”Jahateh explained the motive of the seminar.
Speaking on the issue of access to information, he disclosed that not even half of the political parties in the country have a website to share information with the journalists and the public.
“Before this seminar, the GPU conducted an analysis, an analysis of political parties as far as their access to information or their communication channels are concerned. It is sad to say that we realised that of all the political parties in the country not even half of them have a website. If you look at our analysis was taken the African Union guidelines on access to information and election as a benchmark,” he said.
The Programme Manager said one of the basic tools on the access to information and elections that political parties should communicate is having a website. He said a website is where their constitution should be available and also the other pilots and regulations of a political party will be available for their members but also for the wider public who are interested in the political party but have no information.
“Most of the political party supporters we have spoken to more than half of them don’t even know the Constitution of their respective political parties. We feel this is a problem not only for journalists but political parties themselves and their supporters as well. Because the parties will look credible in the eyes of the people and their supporters when they know about the party when they have access to those parties,” the GPU programme manager stated.
Meanwhile, Dodou Jah, Deputy Spokesperson for Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction [APRC] said political parties and the media should work closely; saying the parties need to sell their programmes, policies and whatever their philosophy is or activities through the media.
“If the media and the political parties don’t come to terms and understand each other’s profession, definitely that is a big problem. That’s why we need to come together. They [media] highlighted what their problems are, I believe in as much as there are a lot of issues that happened that the media is complaining about which most of them said is done by political parties or politicians on the other side; I think politicians too have certain complaints that they are lying to the media. But coming together, sitting and discussing definitely will iron out a lot of things that are in between and some misconceptions to be cleared,” Dodou Jah, stated.
Kerr Fatou has confirmed that the Gambia Democratic Congress [GDC], Citizens’ Alliance [CA], and People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism [PDOIS], are among the few registered political parties currently maintaining a functioning website. Thus, contributing to access to information for their members and public at large.