Sharing Discussing Understanding

Commonwealth Journalists' Association

The UK branch of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA-UK) has discussed with a small group of Gambian media-connected professionals the ‘climate of fear’ that has existed for the last 16 years in the independent media in that country.

Julius Mucunguzi / © Commonwealth SecretariatThis meeting, held in London recently, ended with a call for the Gambia to be reinstated on the list of countries considered by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which deals with serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth values as laid down in the 1991 Harare Declaration. This covered, notably, human rights, democracy and good governance.

CMAG was set up in 1995, when the Gambia, then under a military regime, was included on its agenda. It was taken off the agenda in 2002 as it was felt that the government was meeting basic democratic criteria, but it is understood that the Gambia is still discussed ‘below the radar.’

The CJA-UK is concerned at the climate of fear obtaining in the independent media in the Gambia, illustrated most dramatically in two unsolved crimes, the assassination of The Point editor, Deyda Hydara, in 2004, and the disappearance of Daily Observer reporter Ebrima Manneh in 2007. Media freedom in the Gambia cannot be said to exist.

The CJA-UK feels that it is now time to move the problems of the Gambia into more open discussion in the Commonwealth, especially since the CMAG mandate was broadened at the Coolum Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2002 to make it clear that violations by non-military regimes should be included, and for the first time, the Commonwealth was committed to protect freedom of expression.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative was also represented at the London meeting.

Please contact Mr Kaye Whiteman for further