Alagi Yorro Jallow
Media practitioners and Journalists worldwide, including the Gambia, will be celebrating World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2021. The day is set aside by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.
On World Press Freedom Day, citizens of the world pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives and are unjustly imprisoned while following their passion for exposing the truth. In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right is not guaranteed to all.
Freedom of the press is a prerequisite for any flourishing democracy. The free flow of information and access to uncensored material serves as a check against censorship by the government. By nurturing and protecting this fundamental right, free peoples achieve democratic improvements in their societies.
Unfortunately, all around the world, some governments continue to violate press freedom. In these nations, journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics have been imprisoned and even murdered while reporting the truth.
It should be clear to all politicians —that no government, whatever its pretensions or whatever its accomplishments, can legally claim respect if its citizens are not allowed to say what they believe or denied the right to learn about events and decisions that affect their lives. A country without a free and independent press is nothing to brag about, has nothing to teach, and no way to fulfill its potential.
Communication and Information Minister must urgently increase efforts towards creating the necessary media reforms and conditions to promote the pluralistic media in The Gambia. Press freedom has never been as threatened as “highly toxic” media-bashing Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years’ rule. The government must secure press freedom by repealing draconian press laws inimical to press freedom and end the public demonization of critical journalists, muckrakers, and Whistleblowers.
World Press Freedom journalists are celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom, defending the media from attacks on their independence, and paying tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. One of the least celebrated professions in this day and age of social media is journalists.
By the way, many of them have their salaries cut, some have been fired as a way of cutting down costs, some are working till late at night trying to verify the news. However, never before in history do we need to verify news and information like now. We cannot live without journalists. Yes, some have tarnished the name of this noble profession by what they do. However, not all are bad like Momodou Musa Touray of the Gambia, Lamin Marong of Mamos Media News and Assan Sallah of the Digest, and many others I follow. They read widely and inform the public, share a history and give us the proper perspective on issues.
In this pandemic, some have dedicated themselves to highlight issues affecting various sectors, fighting injustice, and giving a voice to the voiceless. Some have contracted Covid- 19 in the line of duty, and they do not have life insurance, By the way. You can shout all you want about us being socialites and all, but where would the world be without news? For those whose stories have been highlighted in newspapers and TV stations, how would people have reached you and known your story? How would people have been encouraged? How would you have found assistance? We go through a lot to get news. Anyway, may God bless our service to humanity, expand our borders, protect us from all evil and bless our pockets with money. Furthermore, all said Aameen.
Alagi Yorro Jallow