Drop the frivolous charges against Madi Joberteh NOW
Forgetfulness is a weak human character. The majority of us have the power to retain information as long as we want, likewise a good number of us only remember what they what to remember. However, in the university of life, mankind had decided to erroneously label his past mistakes as experiences. For those in this school of thought experience is not associated with the good things of life, but rather with the difficulties that one had gone through, especially in the early stages of his/her life. Yet still, growing up with “wisdom”, we tend to repeat these same old mistakes over and over again, validating the concept that “the only thing we learn from experience is that we learn nothing from experience”. “Fateh hej ju fe”.
The charges slammed on Madi Joberteh by the Police is nothing but the fine tuning of the old requiem songs from the Yahya Jammeh Dead Hymn Book, whose callous compositions and rhythms manufactured very frivolous charges against citizens only to silence them. The charges against Madi Joberteh no doubt have its genesis from the Criminal Code Amendment Act 2005, which by this time in our democracy in “The New Gambia” should already have been dumped into the rubbish bins of history.
In my honest view the charges against Madi Joberteh has nothing to do with the “publication and broadcast of false information” noting that Madi was interviewed and he simply expressed his opinion concerning the killing of three individuals on Gambian soil. If we try to dissect this narrative, it becomes obvious that Madi has expressed his opinion as a citizen based on what is already public knowledge. His opinion therefore cannot be false since we have not heard any statement issued by the police on the investigations of these murder cases that are contrary to what Madi had expressed. Madi’s opinion therefore has a public interest value and as Gambian citizens we have every right to know what the police are doing concerning the investigations into these murders. In addition to this, Madi has not been to any media house to publish or broadcast his opinion even if they were published and broadcast.
From a journalistic standpoint therefore, the charges against Madi Joberteh should be seen from its wider perspective as an indecent assault against dissent, a naked and blanket raid on freedom of expression and a calculated attempt to clip the wings of the independent media, activists and human rights defenders as we slowly approach election year. This has been the trend in many African countries where incumbent governments use the machineries of state institutions like the police, military and intelligence services to repress freedom of expression and media freedom, supress dissent and divergent views in an attempt to silence activists, political opponents and their supporters and utilizing highhanded tactics to create fear amongst the citizenry.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which The Gambia is a party to states in Article 19 (1) “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinion without interference”. Moreover, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information states in Principle 2, “Freedom of opinion, including the right to form and change all forms of opinion at any time and for whatever reason is a fundamental and inalienable human right indispensable for the exercise of freedom of expression. States shall not interfere with anyone’s freedom of opinion”.
Apart from the right to life, the right to freedom of opinion and the right to freedom of conscience are the greatest fundamental human rights simply because one needs to have a conscience and an opinion before he/she is able to express anything meaningful. Dissent and the respect for divergent view are the cornerstones of any democracy. “If a country has to grow in a holistic manner, where economic and civil rights are to be protected, then dissent and disagreements have to be permitted and in fact should be encouraged.” There is simply no democracy without dissent.
In our political set up however, dissent and the expression of divergent view are quickly and erroneously associated with being “unpatriotic, anti-establishment, anti- government and surprisingly even anti- democracy”, when these very ideals that the state itself try to supress are the very essence of democracy.
As a nation we cannot afford to walk along the same old Jammeh dirty highway again. We need to do far much better now in order to assure ourselves that there is a positive departure from the old status quo. “System change”. Our democracy will not register any positive gains if we are still utilizing the callous Jammeh laws to suppress dissent in 2020. These negative laws that adds no value to human existence should be erased from our statute books once and for all. The laws of sedition, publication and broadcast of false information and insult laws have no place in a democracy. It is very worrying and disheartening to note that independent African states are still using the very archaic laws that that the colonial masters used to silence the founding fathers of African independence. These archaic and undemocratic laws should be nip in the bud once and for all.
The charges against Madi Joberteh are “Trump”, frivolous, bogus, vague and completely vagary and should be dropped immediately and unconditionally. The Barrow Government MUST uphold and respect its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments that it has signed and ratified with regards to the freedom of expression and the respect for one’s opinion. Drop the frivolous charges NOW!
Pa Louis Thomasi.