As we mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes committed against Journalists.
The Gambia Press Union join calls by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries worldwide, for governments, journalists and media groups to support the adoption of a UN Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals.
In order to “Break the Cycle of Impunity”, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) agrees that more safeguards and guarantees must be implemented beyond the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which has been unable to deliver the “free and safe environment for journalists and media workers” it promised, according to the IFJ.
In the Gambia and elsewhere around the world, journalists continue to be harassed, attacked both physically and verbally, beaten, arrested, detained, threatened and killed for doing their job.
Attacks on journalists online, including hacking and attempts to takeover social media accounts and emails of journalists and media organisations, online harassment, and surveillance also threaten the digital and physical safety of journalists.
This, therefore, made it even more urgent for the United Nations to adopt a Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals – an instrument that would compel governments to address impunity for violence targeting journalists and media personnel.
In the Gambia, the failure to bring perpetrators of crimes against journalists to justice, has over several decades perpetuated a cycle of violence against journalists.
“The victims of the grave dictatorship-era crimes against journalists in the form of killings, enforced disappearance and torture have yet to see justice,” GPU President, Muhammed S. Bah, said. “Also, promises of greater freedoms, the protection of journalists and media law reforms have yet to be fulfilled, six years after the dictatorship.”
In the last five years, more than 15 incidents of physical assault on journalists and media professionals occurred, with all these attacks being perpetrated either by the police or politicians, including supporters of the president and the opposition.
To date, not a single perpetrator has been prosecuted for these crimes committed against journalists in The Gambia.
“We call on the government to renew its commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression and ensure that journalists enjoy a safer environment to do their job without intimidation and attacks,” GPU Secretary General, Modou S. Joof, said. “To address impunity for crimes against journalists, there must be justice, and this can’t be achieved if perpetrators face no consequences for their actions which has been the case in the Gambia in the last 28 years.”
The GPU is urging political parties to also take up their responsibilities to protect and ensure the safety of journalists covering their events such as press conferences and political rallies, and to stop their supporters from attending press conferences thereby creating an atmosphere of intimidation and possible assault both physically and verbally.
Press Statement by GPU