President Barrow’s administration decision “ requiring journalists to go through a selection process under the supervision of the State Intelligence Services (SIS) as part of press accreditation procedures” is a threat to press freedom in The Gambia .
This recent decision to expose Journalists to screening through state intelligence agency for press accreditation is the beginning of war on press freedom in The Gambia. This means our secret intelligence service will be monitoring activities of journalists. This is another reminder that President Barrow is a dictator in the making. Many Gambians are not surprise to see President Barrow put surveillance on journalists covering national events at Statehouse. This is because President Barrow chief advisers are former President Yaya Jammeh’s cronies who are dictating the direction of our country. His advisers like Finance minister Mambureh Njie , Foreign Minister Momodou Tankara , and national security adviser , Momodou Badjie are all former President Jammeh’s enablers. They have been implicated in human rights violations and economic mismanagement but President Barrow’s main preoccupation is to consolidate and entrench himself in power. Therefore, he needs these people to do dirty works for him . Barrow has no moral authority to do what is constitutionally and morally right. His advisers are anti-Democracy, anti-press freedom and anti- rule of law. They do not have moral conviction and integrity. They would continue to mislead him for their selfish interest. There are plenty of indicators which suggest that Barrow might also end up like his predecessor who was forcefully removed.
Since President Barrow’s installation, he has repeated majority of the dictatorial tendencies carried out by former Dictator Yaya Jammeh. These dictatorial tendencies include putting surveillance on journalists as his administration recently announced that Gambian journalists would go “through selection process under supervision of State intelligence service to cover national events at Statehouse”. This is an insult and betrayal of what we fought for during the last two decades. We the Gambian people fought for press freedom and freedom of expression . We fought Yaya Jammeh and his cronies because they put secret police and intelligence agents in our daily lives. President Barrow’s decision is reminiscent of what former Dictator Yaya Jammeh did during his era when he ( former President Jammeh ) created a special division within the National Intelligence Agency ( NIA) to monitor activities of Gambian journalists. It was the creation of media surveillance unit at the NIA which led to disappearance, torture , exile , illegal incarceration and death of so many journalists. Journalists like chief Ebrima Manneh and many others were followed and monitored by the state intelligence service or NIA agents.
Barrow setting up the same media surveillance unit at State intelligence Service for the accreditation of journalists to cover national events at statehouse is not only a threat to our democratic ideals but also against our fundamental rights and rule of law that citizens fought hard to gain . He is a man who is not prepared enough to understand that The Gambia has been through brutal dictatorship because of bad policies of former President Yaya Jammeh. After two years of job training characterized by bad decisions and poor performance, President Barrow leadership is a disappointment . One would expect that after two years of job training , President Barrow’s understanding of our constitution and his administration performance would improve but we have seen numerous decisions that violated our constitution and systematic failure in every project this administration undertook.
Reported extensive corruption allegations at First Lady Fatoumata Bah Barrow’s Foundation and Barrow’s Youth Movement for National Development are two organizations that remind Gambian people that President Barrow is not different from Yaya Jammeh. Another classic example of systematic failure is Janneh’s commission which after two years of entertainment, The Gambian people paid the commissioners 50 million Dalasis while the country gain only 20 million Dalasis so far. The net gain of 20 million Dalasis is an insult to the intelligence of Gambian people. At the beginning of Janneh’s commission, I was a keen supporter who was interested for the commission to unearth corruption of former President and his cronies but I am extremely disappointed that the commission spent 50 million Dalasis on salaries , food and entertainment. I worry the TRRC is going to be another waste of funds for the Gambian public in the next two years since President Barrow’s continue to have Jammeh’s enablers as his chief advisers. It is also in President Barrow’s political interest to seek alliance with members of Jammeh’s APRC for political support for his election. This makes TRRC a dog and pony show. President Barrow’s political agenda is now forefront of statehouse daily strategies.
The Gambia is at crossroads. There is every indication that the current trajectory is not sustainable and The Gambia needs a new leadership with moral conviction, intelligence and genuine devotion to country and its people in order to transform our political, economic and social conditions. It is time to engage in national conversation to seek new path to common prosperity and democratic ideals. President Barrow is not the answer to our current predicament. He is a man who lost his bearings once his entered the Statehouse in Banjul. President Barrow’s former colleagues in the struggle to liberate our country are now sworn enemies and his previous adversaries are the closest allies. President Barrow is on the path to dictatorship and his administration’s decision to put secret surveillance on journalists should be a wake up call for Gambian journalists and citizens alike. He must be stopped before it is too late.
Written By Max Jarju
Editors note: The views expressed by the author do not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper. Thanks for your attention.