By Arfang M.S. Camara
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) Tuesday welcomes the decision by the government to reopen King FM and Home Digital, but frowned at the government for closing them in the first place.
The two private radio stations were closed on 26th January by the authorities for what they claimed was inciting violence, a claim the owners and the GPU denied.
After an hour-long meeting with the GPU, facilitated by the Human Rights Commission Tuesday morning, the government announced its decision to reopen the stations and drop charges against its managers and staff who were arrested and briefly detained last month.
“What we wish to say is that we (the government and the GPU have all learned lessons from this episode,” said Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou who represented the government at the meeting. “As we seek to strengthen our democracy, there will be shortcomings, not just on the part of the government but also on every other section of Gambian society, including media practitioners,” he said.
When asked about any compensation for the two radio stations for loss of revenue during the times there were closed, Tambadou said the discussion was about the reopening of the two radio stations.
He called on the government and the media fraternity in the country to learn from this episode so that in the future they can avoid any circumstances that will lead to such incidents.
For his part, the GPU president Sheriff Bojang Jnr said the idea was not just to reopen the radio stations but to also to send a signal to those in authority that they cannot keep on abusing power at the expense of the country.
“Though this is a government in transition and a lot of things are expected to be going wrong – in this case, a lot of things went wronged. We came out of a brutal dictatorship during which media houses were closed just through telephone call or somebody showing up without decency or dignity to give you a letter to say you are closed,” he said.
He continued: “Going back now, we have seen in this case the same pattern, and we don’t want this to happen. Our hope is that this will not happen again. Our position is that the reopening of the two radio stations and dropping of all charges is a goodwill, but there is need for more to be done.
Bojang said the GPU and its legal team will take further steps to discuss and seek remedies for the two radio stations.
“The GPU will continue to negotiate and discuss to make sure that there is justice in the case of the two media houses concerned,” he said.
He accused the government of failure to follow the due process in closing down the stations, a charge Minister Tambadou did not accept or deny.
Other officials at the meeting included Emmanuel Joof, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission and other commissioners, and GPU executive members.