Friday, February 25, 2011
Freedom of Expression- Personal Development, Political Consciousness
NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA (MB)- The pursuit of freedom of expression is not a campaign against a government and does not pose a threat to secutiry of a country, but an essential component in any democratic process, Any attempt to curtail press freedom is essentially aimed at silencing the people. Press freedom one can described as vital part of every democracy and is intrinsically linked to the concept of human rights.
Therefore, any attack on the media in The Gambia are indeed targeted at keeping Gambian and people residing in The Gambia in the dark and in addition, trempling on their fundamental human rights.
In The Gambia, the people need a free and independent press for freedom, development and peace and justice in their every day lives. As the saying goes, without freedom of the press, journalists could not report on either the promotion of human rights or violation of rights taken by state authorities.
Any state that calls itself a democratic state need to recognise and value the important of the press as journalists are instrumental link between information and citizens by shaping public opinion.
Media freedom, is what we need in The Gambia, with coupled with fundamental rights and is guaranteed in our constitution, and in all major internationl human rights instruments, which The Gambia is signatory, and all these instruments lays emphasises on the importance of the media in a democratic society with the citizens should enjoy.
Notwithstanding, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHRP), which has its secretrait in Bijilo, is the organ responsible for the enforcement of the charter has in 2002 in Banjul at its 32nd Ordinary Session from 17th – 23rd October, developed principles to inform the application, and guide the development of Article 9.
These principles, contained in the “ Decleration of Principles on Freedom of Expression” in Africa was done in Banjul, popularly called “Banjul Declaration”.
The African Commission has held that freedom of expression is “a absic human right, vital to an individual’s personal development and political consciousness, and to his participation in the conduct of pblic affairsin his or her country.”
Induadivuals cannot participate fully and fairly in the functioning of societies, if they must live in fear of being persecuted by state authorities for exercising their right to freedom of expression, then one can justifiyed that their fudamental rights has being sized by the state.
Presently, in The Gambia, many cannot express their opinions as garanteed by the counstition, and other international instruments because in many cases that we witnessed individuals has been arrested, taken to courts and late sentence to jail.
The state must be required to uphold, protect and guarantee citizens rights if it want to engage in an honest and sincere commitment to democracy and good governance, but in The Gambia, it is a total failure by the state presently.
If taken at face value, the country do not guranteed a free and independent press which sholud not be the case, as the media is part and parcel of development, and in fact it is regarded as the fourth arm.
The Declaration on Freedom of Expression states that persons will not be found liable “for true statement, opinions, or statement, regarding public figure”, and that public figures must tolerate a greater degreee of criicism. To avoid publishing journalists, specifically for their criticism of government and its members, many states in Africa cloak what really amounts to unjust defamation laws, into national security arguments.
In The Gambia, there is only one television station that is government- owned. Suffice to say, the government puts tight control on the news and programmes that are highlighted by the national television. The Gambia Public Printing Cooperation (GPPC) print only The Gambia Info, a government newspaper.
Freedom of assembly, is in our law books, in Article 11 of the African charter and other international instruments which is a manifestation of one’s right to express and impart one’s views within a group settimg, and is their closely tied to freedom of expression.
Yet, the governenment of the day, impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, a good example is the case of Femi Peters of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who has been jailed for 6 months just for exercising his right to assmebly.
Similar to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, which is also guranteed in our law books, in Article 10 of the Afican charter, another international protocols, can be seen as a demonstration of one’s opinions through the group or association with which one affiliates oneself. If demonstratic principles are to be able to function, particularly to express its views without fear of government restriction and reprisal.
Freedom of expression is considered to be a fundemental right in a society that adheres to democratic principles. Also of concerns is the persecution that journalists undergo, as well as the self ensorship that journalists impose on their own work as a way of avoiding areest, harrassment of threats from the current government.
Freedom of expression, assembly, and assiciation seem to be the freedoms the Jameh’s government limit most and where arguments of natinal and public security are most often used to infrige on these rights and to understand that criticism of government is normal, acceptable and a part of the functioning of a democratic society.
Other side of the coin, a comptent judiciary system is a prime indicator of a state’s seriousness in abiding by rules-based regimes. It contributes to the broad project of human security, as well as the more narrowly-definedd one of human rights.