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Editorial: Surprise New Year Gift For Gambian Media

Editorial Logo(JollofNews) – Two of three major media houses banned last year by Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh have been allowed to resume operations.

Taranga FM Radio and The Standard newspaper were given a reprieve thanks to a Presidential decree on the eve of the New Year.

A statement aired on the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Tuesday night attributed the gesture to Jammeh, whose unilateral decision to close them attracted worldwide condemnation.

Together with the Daily News newspaper, owned by veteran journalist Madi Ceesay, the two media houses were shut down in 2012 during a major media crack down by the anti-press freedom government.

Questions are now being asked about the fate of the Daily News which wasn’t mention in the Presidential statement.
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Taranaga FM was shunned by the regime for its popular program which ensured the news was brought to the vast majority of the local population which is often left out. The radio station does so by translating daily news carried by the country’s tabloids in the major local languages of the country.

Its proprietor, Ismaila Ceesay, was also forced into exile in the UK where he currently lives, according to sources.

Although personnel of the feared secrete police loyal to Jammeh – the NIA - ordered the media houses to cease operation without offering any explanation, the development followed the infamous executions of nine prisoners by the regime, another action that attracted widespread condemnation.

Both papers covered extensively the executions as the only remaining independent media outlets in the country.

The Standard is believed to have fallen foul of the regime with its publication of a statement by famous Islamic scholar and human rights activists, Imam Baba Leigh, who condemned the executions.

Mr Leigh was himself later kidnapped by the secret police and detained incommunicado for over five months.

The Presidential statement announcing the lifting of the ban on the two privately owned-media said it was “a mark of goodwill for the New Year.”

Given his aversion for liberty, it is unlike Jammeh to overturn a ban on a media considered as hostile to his regime only on humanitarian grounds. Therefore, the question on everyone’s lip has been: why the sudden change of heart.

But one likely explanation is the pressure being piled on his regime by international donor partners, particularly the European Union which recently held back millions of Euros in response to the deteriorating human rights situation in Gambia.

As a tax-dependent nation, Gambia, to a large extent, depends on donor support for funding of its on-going infrastructural development and other needs. But whatever the reason, it is only a matter of wait-and-see as to how this ends up.

Taranaga FM and The Standard will be resuming operations under some of the worst draconian media laws in the world. And the Presidential statement did remind them of this.

“They are free to operate but the two institutions are urged to operate within the framework of the laws governing the media in this country,” the statement signed by the new kid on the block, Secretary General and Presidential Affairs Minister, Momodou Sabally, stressed.


+5 #6 2014-01-02 20:08
Quoting Bax:
It's like an armed bandit seizing the property of an unarmed man,keeping it for himself for as long as he liked and then deciding to return it to the rightful owner,without any explanation...How does such a man deserve credit...?
Good question Bax,and i ask the editorail,how can this be a gift to the Gambian media? A gift is a present where the receiver didn`t pay any price. In this case the Gambian media and their staffs had already paid the price, meaning the newpapers where closed, revenues lost and some staffs were sent into exile or are jobless. I think the editorial title is giving dictator jammeh a credit for keep someone`s property and returning it to them without any explaination. The Gambian media should claim victory for fighting this bandit regime to give them back their properties but they shouldn`t give them credit for their bandit actions. Dictator jammeh should realise that yours pens and papers are mightier than his barrel of guns.
+5 #5 2014-01-02 11:08
So,what we had was an authority not directly responsible for regulating or monitoring compliance of media houses (Office of the President),abus ing the powers conferred on it,to arbitrary close a media house and deny the proprietors their legitimate ownership and use of their properties...

It's like an armed bandit seizing the property of an unarmed man,keeping it for himself for as long as he liked and then deciding to return it to the rightful owner,without any explanation...

How does such a man deserve credit...? If you agree that such a man deserves credit,then I will agree with you that Yaya Jammeh deserves credit for this action...
+5 #4 2014-01-02 10:58
I am sorry Radiokangkang,b ut Yaya Jammeh does not deserve any credit for this action...Rather,Jammeh should be criticized for his abuse of office,and the impunity in governance which is authorized and directed from the Office of the President....

Since the closure of these media houses,no court proceedings have been conducted against the proprietors,nor have the public,on whose behalf authority should be exercised,been informed about the wrongs of these media houses...Even the owners were not told what they had done wrong,except been "interrogated" by the political police,NIA...

Their operational licenses,which were legally obtained and paid for,were just "suspended" by use of force...

In an interview with Foroyaa,an official at the Ministry of Information (which regulates the media) indicated that these media houses did not breach their licenses,as far as the authority (at the Ministry) was aware...
+4 #3 2014-01-01 21:46
EU’s “chicken change” points dossier demands eventually knocking ‘some sense’ into the knuckle-head of the Kanilai Murderer....? These & other media houses weren’t to lock down at all, for suppression of decent...?? Nor are all other atrocities committed to Gambians, friends & neighbours necessary except to oppress for self-perpetuated aggrandisement.....??? Next yaya jammeh should release all political detainees, confess to his crimes committed, & beg for forgiveness from humans & Almighty God.
-15 #2 2014-01-01 17:20
I think we should give credit to his exellencies the pres. of the republic of the Gambia. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh. for this great gift into the New year. I hope these media houses will play by the rules this time around to avoid a similar action taking by the authorities to defend the laws.

This is a great news to all freedom loving peoples. This is the kindness of our dear leader. He pardon them another chance.
+5 #1 2014-01-01 16:53
Large oak trees from little acorns grow.

The birth of the Gambian online media..was as a direct consequence of actions taken by the Gambian Government.

In my opinion this has been to the grave detriment of all.

To redress this significant imbalance...and to bring greater discipline and direction to the Gambian is imperitive that Gambia gradually lifts all restrictions and allows greater freedom to inspect the conduct of government..without undue external pressure.

I am certain the international community would cautiously welcome this new inititive and respond..with encouragement.

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