On Sunday, January 1, personnel of the National Intelligence Agency visited Taranga FM, Hill Top FM and Afri Radio FM, ordering them to stop transmission with immediate effect. A week later - Sunday January 8 - another private station, Paradise FM, was shut down on similar orders.
The Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, has purportedly confirmed the revocation of the operating licenses of these radio stations. However, neither the Ministry nor the NIA gave any reasons for the closures.
The Gambia Press Union is of the considered view that the nature of the orders for the closure of the concerned radio stations did not follow due process, and is therefore both arbitrary and unlawful.
The GPU considers the closures to be a clear violation of the constitutional provision of section 25 which guarantees freedom of the press, as well as section 207, which places a singular duty upon the press to hold the government accountable to the people.
The GPU further sees the closure of the radio stations as a violation of the right of the journalist to freedom of speech and their right to work. The closures also violate the right of the public to receive, access and impart information that could be meaningful in their lives, especially during this crucial time in our country.
The GPU is aware that the outgoing president, Yaya Jammeh, in a televised speech on Tuesday January 11, has issued an executive directive that orders the liberation of anyone in trouble in connection with the December 1st Election.
The GPU is therefore calling on the concerned state authorities to order for the reopening of the proscribed radio stations and to put a permanent stop to arbitrary and unlawful closure of media houses, as this has become a norm, rather than an exception.
Furthermore, we condemn the unlawful detention of a GRTS journalist, Bakary Fatty, who has been in detention since November 08, 2016. We call on the government to release him immediately and to drop all charges against Momodou Sabally, former director general of GRTS.