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Media freedom group to address impunity, censorship in mission to The Gambia

The Media Foundation for West Africa has deployed a four-member assessment mission to The Gambia. High on the agenda will be discussions on outstanding issues of impunity for crimes perpetrated against journalists by the Yahya Jammeh regime, highlighted as emblematic cases in the IFEX No Impunity Campaign.

Journalists cast shadows as they await former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's arrival at the airport of Banjul, Gambia, 21 January 2017
Journalists cast shadows as they await former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's arrival at the airport of Banjul, Gambia, 21 January 2017

REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on 21 March 2017.

As part of its ongoing efforts to help strengthen the media sector to support democratic consolidation in The Gambia, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has deployed a four-member assessment mission to the country.

Members of the mission will be spending one week holding discussions with key stakeholders in the country for a comprehensive assessment of the media landscape in the country.

Specifically, members of the mission will be holding discussions with government ministers and other senior government officials, the leadership and members of the Gambian Press Union (GPU) and its affiliates, the Gambian Bar Association, the leadership of Journalism Department of the University of The Gambia and officials of the State Broadcaster.

The group will also hold talks with officials of UNESCO, the EU and UNDP. There will also be a public forum with editors and journalists to discuss issues affecting journalists and the media generally.

Findings from the mission will inform the development of a comprehensive media sector support programme by the MFWA and its partners to enhance the media's role in the country's transition and democratic consolidation process.

High on the agenda of the mission will also be discussions on outstanding issues of impunity for crimes perpetrated against journalists by the Yahya Jammeh regime. The discussions on the issue of impunity will be mainly focused on the non-compliance by the Jammeh regime of three judgements of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice delivered in favour of three journalists, Chief Ebrima Manneh (in 2008); Musa Saidykhan (in 2010); and Deyda Hydara (in 2014).

The MFWA has been working with IFEX on an anti-impunity initiative that is aimed at ensuring compliance with the three ECOWAS Court judgements. The mission will thus discuss with officials of the new government modalities for complying with the judgement. Members of the mission will also visit families of the late Deyda Hydara who was murdered in 2004 and Chief Ebrima Manneh who was disappeared in 2006.

For 22 years under President Yahya Jammeh (1994-2016), the media in The Gambia suffered massive abuses including murder of journalists, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions and torture. Several journalists had to go on exile while those in country were subjected to a regime of censorship and self-censorship.

The unexpected defeat of Jammeh in the 2016 elections and the subsequent assumption of power of President Adama Barrow opens a window of opportunity for press freedom, freedom of expression and media development.

The deployment of the mission is a follow-up to an earlier meeting between the Board of Directors of the MFWA and leaders of the Gambian media community held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on January 26, 2017.

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