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'The press is already free' – Gambian president asserts during second media meeting

'The press is already free' – Gambian president asserts during second media meeting

Gambia

Gambian president Adama Barrow on Thursday held his second meeting with the media after six-months in office.

According to the 52-year-old who beat former strongman Yahya Jammeh in December 2016 polls, the meeting was to better engage the media after decades of crackdown by the former regime.

Reports from the engagement saw the president addressing a series of issues fielded by journalists, questions ranged from the economy, human rights, education, health, judicial reforms and other topical issues.

The press is already free. And at the moment all radios, newspapers are all free. It's at the top of our priority list. We will reverse those media laws and in practice we are already doing it. That's the most important thing.

In an interview with the German broadcaster DW, Barrow stressed that the press was free under his watch adding that laws stifling the work of journalists were being reversed.

‘‘The press is already free. And at the moment all radios, newspapers are all free. It’s at the top of our priority list. We will reverse those media laws and in practice we are already doing it. That’s the most important thing,’‘ he told DW’s Omar Wally.

In his address to the first post-Jammeh national assembly on Monday, Barrow called on citizens to trust the new regime which he said had “Gambianised” the judiciary and confined the military to the barracks.

“Over 500 prisoners have been pardoned and we have delivered on our promise to decongest prisons by releasing political and other deserving reformed prisoners … our judiciary has been ‘Gambianised’ with the appointment of a Gambian Chief Justice and six Superior Court justices,” he said.

“Gone are the days of armed security personnel representing the face of government. The Gambian Armed Forces are now confined to their military barracks,” he said while applauding the military for accepting the new order.

Before the legislators, he acknowledged the achievements of his government among others in the area of press freedom, transparency and international partnerships to help build the agriculture, health, energy and educational sectors.

He also stressed on the need to get the country’s energy situation right and to continue earnest efforts at putting the country’s economy back on track. He, however, admitted that his team had a huge task going forward.

Barrow led an opposition coalition that defeated Yahya Jammeh who had ruled The Gambia for over two decades. Jammeh accepted the loss and backtracked later, plunging the small west African country into a state of political tension and uncertainty.

It took last minute efforts of Guniea’s Alpha Conde and Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to convince Jammeh to leave the country after a series of failed mediations by regional bloc, ECOWAS.

A force had been deployed to oust Jammeh if he refused to vacate. He is currently resident in Equatorial Guinea.

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