Gambia’s opposition demand equal airtime on state network, end to intimidation

Gambia’s opposition demand equal airtime on state network, end to intimidation

Opposition representatives have asked for enough airtime on The Gambia’s state broadcast radio and television stations ahead of the crucial presidential votes this December.

Opposition activists have accused the state broadcaster, GRTS of bias and of “deliberately sabotaging” their campaigns by giving them less airtime and heavily editing their campaign rallies.

Laws in The Gambia have forced local newspapers and media houses into self censorship. Radio stations have been forced to run only sports and entertainment programs and newspapers that run stories contrary to the government’s versions of events stand the risk of losing their licenses.

“The journalists are less than 1% of the population and if anybody expects me to allow less than 1% of the population to destroy 99% of the population, you are in the wrong place,” Gambia’s president, Yahya Jammeh said in 2011.

ECOWAS said elections in the country are not free and fair citing an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the government with an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.

But President Yahya Jammeh who uses national security as a premise to crackdown on opponents said he will never compromise peace and stability “at the altar of so-called democracy.”

“There is no way I can lose unless you tell me that all Gambian people are mad” Jammeh said.

Opposition parties called for a stop to intimidation of voters.

Electoral commission chief, Alieu Njie said a free election depends on freedom of speech, assembly, association and movement, and freedom from fear and promised transparent polls.

The Gambia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Samsudeen Sarr has threatened an independent candidate warning that any activity that seeks to compromise the West African nation’s national security will be swiftly dealt with.

At least 50 members of an opposition party have jailed including UDP leader Ousainou Darboe. Darboe rejected the country’s 2011 results and complained of intimidation by the military.

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