Gambia’s outgoing President Yahya Jammeh is getting scolded for closing three radio stations by the incoming administration and requested the government reopen the stations.
One of the closed stations, AfriRadio was back on air before the day’s end, but two others, Teranga FM and Hilltop Radio remain off air.
“It is a sign of weakness for any side of the political spectrum to resort to media closures rather than engagement to put one’s position across,” said President-elect Adama Barrow.
Barrow, who is backed by seven opposition parties defeated President Yahya Jammeh in the polls last month. Jammeh is refusing to step down after initially accepting defeat. Jammeh is now using repressive tactics in order to assert his authority and regain control.
Repressive media laws under Jammeh’s regime forced many newsrooms into self-censorship. But since his defeat, the opening of the media has contributed to a more informed and politically engaged citizenry.
Press rights group Reporters Without Borders ranked Gambia 145 out of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, with the country having created “a climate of terror around anything remotely to do with journalism.”
After gaining control following a coup in 1994, Jammeh has also been accused of human rights violations in the western African nation, including imprisonment, torture and the murder of opponents.
The closing of the stations is a slap in the face of the country’s democratic process, said Emil Touray, the press union president. The union says people will not have access to information in this critical period of the country’s history.