(JollofNews) – Media is a powerful instrument that can provoke a war because people can be susceptible to the information it spreads about a particular subject like the current political situation in the Gambia.
Media is historically alleged to have been complicit in facilitating problems in the world, as in the case of Rwandan genocide where it was used by the government as a political and social instrument to influence the peoples’ behaviors, attitudes and belief system to engage in criminal activities and hatred for the oppositions.
Admittedly, the Gambia RadioTelevision Services (GRTS) and all the other media outlets that promote President Yahya Jammeh’s undemocratic approaches must bear in mind that they can be legally liable for their role of justifying an illegitimate course and perpetuating violence (in accordance with the international law).
GRTS and other print medias in the Gambia have a track record of facilitating, implementing and broadcasting Jammeh’s genocidal speeches for 21 years, while entirely denying the opposition’s access to national television and radio. Retrospectively, both the national army and the Gambian jusdicial system have explored the same unconstitutional approaches. They have a legacy of succumbing to Dictator Jammeh’s whims and caprices because of their job security and personal gains against the collective interest of Gambians.
Unarguably, these actions have ostensibly helped to shape and direct the perpetuation of hatred, misrepresentation of facts and destruction of the consumptions of critical perspective of vital information, needed for a productive and a democratic society.
However, it is worth to bring the Rwandan and Libyan experience into context because it can serve as a moral guideline for our dear brothers who are working not only for GRTS and other media personnel, but also for other people presently working for Jammeh to be aware of their roles and its consequences on the public.
Additionally, under no circumstance the employees of the state media should broadcast Jammeh’s threats and loud-mouthed speeches against a particular tribe or sections of our society. These actions would be unpardonable in the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the state media employees have options to resign or quit, but doing these dirty jobs for Jammeh with the flimsy excuse that you were forced or under command will not exempt them from prosecution. The same condition will apply to soldiers who will succumb to Jammeh’s tyranny and refuse to execute the will of the majority of Gambians on January 19, 2017.
Theoretically, and by extensions, the same laws will amply be applicable to prosecute any Gambian Judge or Nigerian Judges who knowingly pursue miscarry of justice against the will of Gambians with the intend to fraudulently obviate the December 1, 2016 election result in favor of Yahya Jammeh. Because these failures and actions are deliberate acts that can exacerbate the scale of the conflict and perpetuate chaos, resulting to genocidal actions. This is why it is imperative to remind all those people presently working for Jammeh to avoid actions that will help to entrench dictatorship and being used as a tool to repress Gambians. These are crimes against humanity and punishable under international law.
The Media Lessons From Rwanda
The role of state media significantly shaped and directed the perpetuation of hatred in the Rwandan genocide because the reason why the Hutu ethnic group got so much attention was due to conducive environment provided by the media in sensationalizing tribal hatred among the people.
Notably, Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) and Journal Kangura, which were used as propaganda tool to incite violence. It worth note that various forms of media that range from Radio, print and Television contributed in spreading information that tend to construct verbal and visual caricatures of the Tutsis, the minority ethnic group through political, cultural and social exclusion. As Bromley (20000, p. 39) claims that media tolerably helped mobilizing Hutu militias to massacre and rape hundreds of thousands of Tutsi men, women and children and their Hutu supporters in a period of three months because of the role of RTLM and Journal Kangura.
He further states that RTLM exploited the assassination of Rwanda president, Habyriyamna as a means to resort to the idea of “premordialism as a form of strategy of reductionism and essentialism to eliminate,” and describe the minority Tutsi as vermin, beast, and insects (pp. 51, 53). This implies that the media method of broadcasting aggravated deep hatred between the Hutu and Tutsi because it communicated and conveyed message of propaganda that tend to lend credence to wide spread violence.
Similarly, Yanagizawa-Drott (2011, p. 27, 30) findings also confirms that RTLM was very effective in persuading the militia to attack the minority who were less capable of defending themselves and also acknowledges that ten percent of the Rwandan genocide perpetrators were relatively due to radio station’s transmissions of distorted information, and two third of the militia, police, gendarmerie and other organized violence were caused by the same radio station.
For these reasons the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found the state media, RTLM, the newspaper and radio to be complicit of Rwandan genocide because they demonized the Tutsi as evil and equating it with enemy and also representing its women as seductive agents, thereby calling for complete annihilation of the Tutsi ethnic group (Thompson, 2007, pp. 2 – 3). Moreover, the state media hatred also exacerbate the scale of violence because Television and radio presenters such as Valerie Bemeriki of RTLM were often seen wearing the Interahamwe’s uniform to denounce the Tutsis. Accordingly, similar scenario is seen in Libya, where we saw state TV personnel supporting dictator, Gadhafi, however, this does not prevent his looming fall.
On the other hand, this argument is not to draw a contrast between the Gambia and Rwanda or Libya, but to highlight the negative impact of the state controlled media and individual initiatives that supported a kind of government propaganda-calling for preemptive violence against the oppositions. Admittedly, this reasonably suggests that the Gambia government use of GRTS and exclusion of the coalition access to state media prepared a fertile ground to implement Jammeh’s ideology of hatred against the oppositions. This also explains Jammeh’s ambition in constructing an image of irreconcilable difference, and entirely vilifying the coalition, and more so, the Mandinkas as the enemies of democracy as well as his own supporters who want peaceful transfer of power.
Unarguably, the GRTS and the Daily Observer newspaper, heedlessly continue to misrepresent and spread fear, rumor and panic of Jammeh’s invectives against his perceive enemies, the Mandinkas for years and most recently the coalition members. The Jammeh’s government skillfully and pragmatically employs this through framing and projecting issues of the genocidal speeches, specifically to influence and instill fear in public opinion at the same time to garner support from certain elements of the society.
Certainly, this media framing and agenda setting by Jammeh result to empowering and consolidating his power and also infringes on the rights of ordinary citizens of the Gambia. Inevitably, the state media indelibly enable Jammeh to become the ‘alpha and omega’ of our society, and presented a mere ‘marshmallows man’ as mysterious and indomitable who loves the Gambia more than any Gambian yet to be born.
More descriptively, state media usually presents Jammeh as a pan-Africanist who is devoid of powers to harm any Gambian, and aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent. Ironically, Jammeh’s 22 years of rule was marred by continues maiming, torturing, silencing, disappearance without trace, using kangaroo courts to jail and kill his opponents and even his close associates.
Rhetorically, is Jammeh’s pan-Africanism sincere and authentic? May be not because 44 Ghanaians would not have been killed and their bodies decapitated for ritual purposes to meet his insatiable desire to stay in power. Yet, for years, many people tend to trust the news content, especially from the so-called reputable GRTS because it appear to be a medium that reproduces accurate news for such people. The targeted audience for this propaganda is often illiterates and semi-illiterates population who increasingly depend on the available government news since all independent news mediums were not allowed to operate.
As the current situation unfolds in the Gambian, the state apparatus in the form of media, the army or the civil society, the legislatures and the executives and courts must immediately desist from actions that will blatantly destroy the prospect of the new democratic process that is about to begin in the Gambia. Furthermore, the state media’s continuous coverage of Jammeh’s threats and violence against the wishes of Gambians would only compromise their integrity and hold them to be accountable to their actions in the future.
While keeping its media coverage exclusively from the activities of the coalition would be synonymous to propagating Jammeh’s propaganda of disseminating false information and prolonging his illegitimate rule. Overall, the state media’s attempt to censure the coalition will fundamentally destroy any components of the chance to critically assesse differences between Jammeh and the Gambians as a whole.
Similarly, Jammeh’s televised New Year’s speech in which he called for fresh election and his attempt to close Taranga FM and other independent medias, coupled with his future plan to clamp down on the oppositions in the subsequent weeks to come will undoubtedly result in his impending downfall as in the case of his shut down of the internet and international calls on election day.
GRTS and more specifically, the Nigerian judges should take lessons as they continue their vital task of informing the publics about the recent political problems in the Gambia and executing Jammeh’s unconstitutional demands. Moreover, GRTS coverage abysmally failed to reflect objective realities in the country and it has delusional motives that tend to serve and promote Jammeh’s political violence, irrational and immoral agenda.
This tends to further distort the ability of many ordinary people to discern the truth from fictions. It also illustrates the state employee’s ignorance of serving a national interest instead of being an instrument of sycophancy. Veritably, for 21 years now the state media have proven to be an epitome of prejudice, discrimination and labeling oppositions and other media outlets that fail to promote president Jammeh’s political ideologies as enemies of the state. By this time, it would have been ideal and more patriotic for all GRTS personnel, the army and the facade judges to resign their positions when confronted with Jammeh’s undemocratic and unconstitutional demands against the will of Gambians.
By Lamin Keita