In the past twelve years (2006-2017) close to 1010 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. On average, this constitutes one death every four days. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems.
UNESCO is concerned that impunity damages whole societies by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crime. Governments, civil society, the media, and everyone concerned to uphold the rule of law are being asked to join in the global efforts to end impunity. On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists commemorated on November 2, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) has called on the Government of The Gambia to thoroughly investigate crimes against journalists. In 2013, the UN General Assembly proclaimed November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, urging State Parties to implement measures countering the culture of impunity.
The commemoration of November 2 draws attention to violent crimes against journalists and media workers. This year alone, at least 88 journalists have been killed, according to the UN. The UNESCO Director General says that an estimated 1,010 journalists and media professionals have been murdered since 2006, and nine out of ten such cases have not been brought to court. In The Gambia, for the last two decades of the former regime, a large number of Gambian journalists went through some of the most gruesome crimes in the hands of the state and its agents.
Scores of media professionals were arbitrarily arrested, illegally detained and tortured by security forces for merely executing their functions as journalists. Newspaper publisher and editor, Deyda Hydara was killed by unknown assailants, while journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh is still missing after his disappearing following an arrest by state agents in July 2006. These forced many others to flee into exile for fear of persecution.
While the administration of Adama Barrow expressed commitment in creating an enabling media atmosphere, no one has so far been tried for any of the crimes against journalists. Crimes against journalists remain at an intolerable level with an estimated five cases of violent attacks on media professionals since the new government assumed office in 2017.
The President of GPU, Sheriff Bojang Jr., says “as The Gambia seeks to transition from that dark chapter to a democratic one, crimes meted out to journalists must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be punished. Anything less than that is unacceptable’. “On this Day, we want to pay homage to our fallen colleagues and those who became victims of crimes for sacrificing their lives, safety and security to speak the truth and to hold the authorities accountable”, Mr. Bojang remarks. The GPU acknowledges the positive steps taken by the Barrow administration by paying compensation to the families of Chief Ebrima Manneh and Deyda Hydara.
The Union calls on the government to fulfill the promise to pay the balance to those families and speedy up the process of payment of compensation to Musa Saidykhan, Lamin Fatty, Fatou Camara, Alagie Jobe and Fatou Jaw Manneh, ordered by the Ecowas Court of Justice.