It is to our dismay that President Barrow and some of his Cabinet Ministers frowned at Journalist Kebba Jeffang for putting forward a pertinent question, whether the recent 75 million Euros aid package provided by the European Union to The Gambia Government, has ‘Gay Rights’ condition attached to it? while covering the signing ceremony on February 9th.
Barrow looks very displeased for the question and in a diminishing voice response that ‘homosexuality is not an issue in The Gambia’, which Hamat Bah punctuated in an unpleasant gesticulation and shouted ‘very good answer Mr. President’.
The fundamental question Barrow and his Cabinet need to answer is, what is the uneasiness and mumbling to a question that deserved to be answered, hence the former APRC government has repeatedly claimed that ‘Gay Rights’ conditions attached to EU aid money are amongst the reasons that breaks down the EU-Gambia cooperation.
In fact that was paraphrased by Jeffang in his question.
Therefore, Journalist Jeffang`s questioned in good faith, which is a clear demonstration of his journalistic independence. Journalists should never be in the pockets of politicians and should scrutinise their conduct and rhetoric’s supposing that the ‘real story’ could lie hidden below.
From our perspective, the President and his Ministers mumbling with cynicism towards a journalist is an act of dishonesty that constitutes an attempt to silence independent journalism. Jeffang`s case and experience could have a negative impact on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
If Barrow couldn`t in explicit terms give a ‘yes or no’ answer or in implicit terms tell the reporter that his government will protect the rights of all people irrespective of sexual orientation for fear of ‘cultural backlash’, then he is not the type of a leader that practices ‘deliberative democracy’, which gave birth to his presidency.
SBN encourages all independent minded reporters to continue being the ‘watchdogs’ and not ‘stooges’ to any politician in the ‘New Gambia’, to contribute in the creation of an enlightened critical citizenry. Leaders who cannot articulate their system of governance on policy lines and programmes belongs to the club of ‘dumbish’.