28 March 2011

Gambia News :Independent Journalists Denied Entry at National Assembly

Journalists from independent press have been denied entry by state security agents to cover the State Opening of the National Assembly on Friday by President Yahya Jammeh despite having official accreditation.  
Reporters from Foroyaa, Today, The Point, Marketplace (Magazine), News and Report (Magazine), The Voice, and The Daily News private newspapers, frustratingly stood at the door to the National Assembly for about an hour before they were allowed-in by frown-faced security agents after the newly appointed press director at State House, Fatou Camara pleaded with them.
In very strong terms, Gambian president Yahya Jammeh recently dispelled reports that his government is restricting independent press to access official information. However, Friday’s incident could be said to lay bare Jammeh administration’s unwillingness to open doors to the private press.  
Mr Lamin Jahateh of Marketplace briefly explains here how it all happened:
“Go away; we don’t need the private press here. Go!” a female security agent barked at us. She shut her eyes at us as we pulled-out and put on view the accreditations given to us by the National Assembly to cover the ceremony.
To our surprise, a reporter from Daily Observer, a pro-government newspaper, came and met us standing. As soon as he told the security agents: “I am from Daily Observer,” they ushered him in a full escort. He entered through the door used by dignitaries.
After standing under the sun in frustration for almost thirty minutes, we then approached Fatou Camara, the newly appointed Director of Press and Public Relations at Office of the President and explained the situation to her.  “Ok, let me come,” Fatou told us.
We beamed in anticipation that very soon we will enter. But Fatou never returned up until a Foroyaa newspaper, Abubacarr Saidykhan, went to find out whether the DPPR will come or she has forgotten us. 
About ten to fifteen minutes later, Saidykhan then appeared with a glimmer of hope: “Follow me,” he told us in a strong voice, accompanied by gesticulation. As we followed Abubacarr, we met Fatou Camara pleading with the NIA officers at the door for them to allow us in.  One of them then nodded his head in acceptance that we can enter. “But you said seven, so only seven of them will enter,” one of them firmly told Fatou Camara. This is how we entered, thanks to Fatou Camara.  We spent almost an hour standing outside before we were allowed to enter. The president was more than mid-way into his speech by the time we entered.”


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