Following the very unfortunate fracas involving a volunteer local interpreter with the Presidential “Meet The People Tour” and three independent journalists at the Jangjangbureh—Lamin Koto Ferry Crossing on Thursday 21 November, 2019, The Gambia Government issues this statement to put things in their proper perspective.
The Government wants to make it categorically clear that neither President Adama Barrow nor any member of his government or official delegation sanctioned, encouraged, participated or condoned the alleged assault on the three journalists from Kerr Fatou, Gambia Talents Promotion and Paradise FM.
Contrary to reports that President Barrow had instructed Tourism & Culture Minister, Hon Hamat Bah to pacify the feuding BYM supporters over poor logistical arrangements affecting their transportation, President Barrow didn’t in fact know of the incident until several hours thereafter.
Rather, in exercise of good judgment, no sooner had the Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah noticed the rising tension among the supporters furious over poor transportation arrangements than he immediately interceded and instructed the CRR Regional Governor, Sheriff Abba Sanyang to immediately cater to their demands and that was heeded to instantly. However, upon thorough investigations, The Government was able to establish that an overzealous volunteer in the “Meet The People Tour” apparently unhappy with the filming of the altercation among supporters attempted to stop the filming and in the process was caught in a melee with the trio.
Unfortunately, during the scuffle, The Gambia Government learnt with profound shock and sadness, allegations that Journalists—Sally Jobe of Kerr Fatou, Ebrahim Jambang of Gambian Talents Promotion and Landing Ceesay of Paradise FM were physically and verbally assaulted as they carried on with their professional business.
Therefore, President Adama Barrow, his government and official delegation wish to express profound shock and sadness over the incident and condemns in the strongest terms the alleged assailant or assailants’ dastardly act against these hard working journalists performing exceptionally well under very challenging circumstances. The alleged assault is embarrassing, uncalled for and deeply regrettable.
Equally, The Presidency is genuinely remorseful and unreservedly apologizes to the trio,The Gambia Press Union and concerned parties over this reprehensible act. President Barrow encourages those affected to continue with their normal business and assures all journalists that his Government does not condone any acts of impunity or attempts that undermine the press.
Meanwhile, in recognition of the crucial role journalists play in our teething democracy following decades of autocratic rule that saw their colleagues murdered, disappeared, tortured and exiled, The Presidency will replace all destroyed equipment and plans are afoot to discuss compensation for those affected by this cowardly act. Let there be no illusions, the Barrow Presidency takes this incident very seriously as it is determined to improve on its most recent impressive press freedom record.
Lest we forget, in the latest press freedom index, out of 55 countries, The Gambia is ranked 9th in Africa and globally, The Gambia ranks 92 out of 186 countries. This is a remarkable achievement compared to the dismal 22 years’ reports that saw The Gambia teetering among the worse 3 human rights violators in Africa. Moving forward, President Adama Barrow and his entire Government is ever more committed to an even greater respect for human and people’s rights, press freedom and democracy and this fascinating trajectory in our new dispensation can neither be compromised nor reversed.
Ebrima G. Sankareh
The Gambia Government Spokesperson