Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews) – The Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1922 obstructs the participation of society as it shields information from the public by means of criminalizing whistleblowers and journalists who expose corruption and mismanagement to the media and public.

By limiting the reporting of corruption to authorities, the Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1922 promotes an environment that breeds corruption primarily because secrecy allows for cases to be squashed without an explanation.

On the other hand, exposing corruption to the public creates a democratic space which holds the authorities accountable at every stage of the investigation. This is a pre-requisite for any serious endeavor in cutting corruption in this country.

As such, by criminalizing whistleblowers and by perpetuating an atmosphere that accelerates corrupt practices, the Gambia increasingly losing its credibility as a democratic nation that upholds justice in a transparent and accountable manner. The Gambian people must call upon the authorities to stop harassing members of the public and alike, who blow the whistle on corrupt practices that can only destroy the health of our democracy.

The Civil Society should call upon the authorities concerned or the National Assembly to review the Official Secret Act of 1922 and draw up a moratorium on using it against whistleblowers in cases of public interest. Members of the National Assembly unanimously modified the Official Secret Act at the second meeting of the Assembly in the 2008 Legislative year.

Presenting the bill for modification, Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, former Vice President and secretary of state for Women’s Affairs recalled that, the Official Secret Act modification bill, object and intend was to provide penalties for any unauthorized disclosure of official information’s and documents including spying, using of official secret codes and passwords as well as the use of unauthorized retention, possession or use of official documents.

Everyone must express shock at the arrest of whistleblower Alhagie Badjie. We should strongly condemn the authorities’ rash action to detained him to facilitate investigations under provisions of the colonial law Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1922.

As a responsible legal person, Mr. Alhagie Badjie exercised his duty to the public by blowing the whistle on what appears to be mismanagement and maladministration, and it should be the authorities’ duty to investigate the alleged misuse of power.
Instead, Mr. Badjie the whistleblower was arrested for alleged providing information was ignored. This undemocratic action is in violation of the principles of transparency and openness in government.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow 

The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.