By Sankulleh Gibril Janko
The Gambia has registered remarkable progress in press freedom, climbing up to 30 places from the previous year, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In 2017, The Gambia was ranked 122nd in the world and 34th in Africa. However, in the latest rankings in 2018, The Gambia rose up from 122nd to 92nd in the world, and from 34th to 9th in Africa.
France based RSF which promotes and defends press freedom, attributes the jump to a change of Government under which the human rights climate of the country has greatly improved.
The RSF report indicated that Gambia has jumped up thirty places, confirming the promising evolution seen after dictator Yahya Jammeh’s departure; that new media outlets have been created, journalists have returned from self-imposed exile, and that the criminalization of defamation has been declared unconstitutional.
Arnaud Froger, RSF Director for Africa commended the Gambia Government and Gambian journalists for the remarkable progress on press freedom in their country, and wished the trend continues. ‘‘We appeal to the Gambia Government without any delay, to abolish draconian Media Laws,’’ he pleaded. The RSF Africa Director further stated that plans are in the offing for the Gambia to host World Press Freedom rankings next year.
Pap Saine, Co-Publisher of the Point Newspaper was Guest of honor at RSF’s Index Report held for the first time in Africa, in Dakar, Senegal. Saine who has worked with RSF for the past 15 years, expressed delight about the progress the Gambia has registered.
Saine informed that since President Barrow assumed office in 2017, the Government of the Gambia has issued licenses to many private owned radio and TV stations, which are running their own news bulletins; that the Education Levy imposed on Media Houses has been abolished.
‘‘Most of the Radio Stations are doing press reviews including Radio Gambia,’’ he said; that journalists of the private press are permitted at State House for coverage; that the press corps of the State House sends press releases to all media house on a regular basis unlike before.
Saine continued that the state broadcaster features developments within the opposition as well as invite them on talk shows; that despite the gains made in press freedom, Saine said he is cognizant of the fact that draconian laws still exist in the books and urges Government to act swiftly to ensure that they are abolished.
Although RSF recognizes the significant progress made on press freedom in the Gambia, the country is not fully free from the old habits of the twenty-two years of terror; that the suppression of press freedom has not fully disappeared yet; that several journalists have been attacked by the police by ‘Jammeh’ supporters, while out reporting.