By: Landing Ceesay
The Gambia Press Union has called on the Gambia Police Force to conduct swift and full investigations into all cases of assault on journalists and media workers.
“The change of government so far has not desirably translated into [a] change of mind-set and approach of police operatives who deal with the media. While the police were always ready and willing to receive complaints over the attacks, they did not bring a single perpetrator before the law.
“Impunity was therefore encouraged and that was part of the reasons why The Gambia did not make significant progress in the international score on press freedom in the world. In order to revise this negative trend and improve the press-police relations, the GPU Programme Manager reiterated the Union’s clarion call to the police for swift and full investigation of all cases of assault on journalists and media workers,” Lamin Jahateh, GPU programme officer said at a meeting with then police chief and high command on wednesday.
He said that the Union also wants the cases to be prosecuted after investigations, and recommended the internal disciplinary measures of the police be fully applied, where the assault is perpetrated by the police.
“Ahead of the presidential election of December 2021, the GPU wants to have a pre-deployment engagement with those police who are going to be involved in election duties so as to sensitize them on how to relate with journalists covering the election. Over and above the elections, the GPU wants a module on press-police relations to be introduced in the curriculum of the police training academy so as to give the recruits the right perspective of the media as they start their policing career.
“We are hopeful that the implementation of these recommendations will see the improvement of relations between the media and the police but it will also help each of the two parties to understand each other’s work and responsibility better,” he explained.
Modou Joof, senior programme officer GPU said having a dialogue with the leadership of the police will hopefully address some of those challenges. He said both the media and the police have critical roles to play in the country’s democratisation process and development. Joof noted the importance for journalists to be able to carry out their work in an environment free of assaults and harassment.
Meanwhile, Abdoulie Sanyang, the Inspector General of Police, promised to gracefully grant all the requests of the GPU, while thanking the delegation for the courtesy visit.
“I will grant all your requests, not only that, we are committed to the implementation,” he said, urging the GPU to follow-up on a new channel of communication opened to ensure concerns of journalists are addressed and the recommendations implemented.
“Everyone needs the police and everyone needs the media. We [police] protect and the media disseminates information, so we work together,” he affirmed.
The Gambia Press Union on Wednesday, 26th May, 2021 paid a courtesy visit to the Inspector General of Police Abdoulie Sanyang and the police high command. The meet was meant to discuss concerns over assault of journalists by the police.
The meeting was in response to the disturbing trend of attacks on journalists and media workers by the members of the Gambia Police Force.
An analysis by the GPU of the current realities and trends indicates that hostilities faced by journalists will worsen as the country heads to the next cycle of elections with divisive political rhetoric and increased media activity.