Gambia’s president should be receiving a Guinness World Record award for the most interviews in a day by an African leader and possibly by any world leader.
President Adama Barrow of The Gambia on Wednesday granted 21 interviews to national and international press within 8 hours, including BBC and DW.
Barrow is standing out as the most press friendly African leader in a continent where journalists face harassment, torture, imprisonment, and death for their work.
While most African leaders shun the press, Barrow embraced them and in leas than six months of his rule, he has given two press conferences and 21 interviews.
Since coming to power, Barrow’s government conceded that the sedition law is unconstitutional and has started to work on reforming laws restricting the press.
Conditions for media freedom improved and restrictions on publishing information in the public interest lifted.
However, economic difficulties, mostly associated with high taxes for the press is affecting newspapers, especially.
The country’s former president silenced its media, but with the new government, journalists are returning to work.
Barrow took over from the autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh, who stifled media freedom through a combination of criminal prosecutions, physical intimidation, censorship, and the promotion of government views in state-run or friendly private outlets.
Jammeh’s regime considered journalists “enemies of the state” and urged people not to buy newspapers so journalists and their families “can starve to death.”
Persistent attacks against journalists and media owners are threatening press freedom and the growth of independent media across Africa.
Media freedom in Africa is not great and watchdogs are voicing concern about curbs on press freedom.
But in The Gambia, Barrow is so far open to criticism and journalists are reporting without fear of reprisal.
Gambia is one of the few African countries that have shown an improvement in press freedom and freedom of expression just six months into Barrow’s rule.
Gambia is becoming home to a vibrant media environment, and press freedom advocacy organizations have started to push back against the Jammeh encroachments that curtail the rights journalists seek to enjoy.