A Gambian journalist was over the week attacked by angry supporters of the main ruling coalition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) whose leader is a veteran politician and now Foreign Affairs minister, Ousainou Darboe.
Local media sources reported that the UDP and two other parties that formed the coalition that won last December’s elections arranged a meeting at which the newspaper reporter, Kebba Jeffang, was attacked for asking a question about the unity of the coalition after unseating Jammeh.
The journalist raised a question over tensions between Darboe and the then coalition spokesman, Halifa Sallah. It took Darboe’s intervention to restrain the supporters as he sought to explain the challenges the coalition was having presently.
Attacking anyone or a journalist on account of his or her legitimate views or inquiries duly expressed either privately or publicly is totally outrageous, reprehensible and utterly unacceptable.
Supporters launched a verbal attack on Keffang who reportedly responded, supporters engaged in a physical confrontation with him before he was rescued by colleagues who whisked him away in a taxi.
The press conference was held in the presence of Darboe and two other ministers, Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty and Hamat Bah of the Tourism Ministry. Fatty condemned the assault on the journalist describing it as ‘outrageous, reprehensible and utterly unacceptable.’
“Attacking anyone or a journalist on account of his or her legitimate views or inquiries duly expressed either privately or publicly is totally outrageous, reprehensible and utterly unacceptable,” Mr. Fatty said.
“Differences of political views are normal in any democracy and are healthy for the polity, and it should be done peacefully.”
A section of journalists are however demanding that the attackers be brought to book given the history that The Gambian press is coming from. Under exiled ruler Yahya Jammeh, the media were largely intimidated. Some were jailed, others died in detention whiles other fled the country.
The new government under Barrow pledged to respect the rights of the media and protect personnel in the conduct of their duties.
It is regrettable that UDP supporters assaulted Foroyaa reporter Jeffang. The GPU will respond appropriately. Justice must be done in it— Saikou Jammeh (@saiks2) March 5, 2017
This intolerance & disrespect of journos by UDP is a cancer that #Barrow must cut before it grows to destroy our country's democratic gains— Saikou Jammeh (@saiks2) March 5, 2017