The secretary general of the Gambia Press Union, Saikou Jammeh, has told the Truth Commission on Monday that former President Yahya Jammeh suppressed the media to keep the society uninformed about his wrongdoings.
Jammeh ruled Gambia for 22 years during which he was accused of several human rights violations including killings and torture of journalists, human rights activists and ordinary citizens.
Since the beginning of his regime in 1994 when he led a successful military coup, the former authoritarian ruler had little love for the media, said secretary general Jammeh.
During Jammeh’s rule, newspapers were allowed to operate with little freedom, radio was completely censored. Radio stations like Citizen FM, Taranga and others that have started airing news were shut down by the regime.
“It has been very long and painful 22 years for journalists… If you look at the international press freedom indexes in the world, we were doing better than only 3 countries at a particular point,” said Saikou Jammeh.
Saikou said Jammeh went after radio badly because of its unique power of breaking the barriers of illiteracy and distance. It was cheap too. While the common man is struggling for food to eat, the radio is freely accessible as opposed to newspaper.
“… Had we known the full extent of human rights violations committed by Jammeh, would we have left him in power for 22 years? Perhaps no. Had we known the extent of looting by Jammeh,… would we have allowed him to rule for 22 years? Perhaps, no,” said Saikou.
Saikou suggested that Jammeh’s clamped down on the media was aimed at disempowering the citizens with the required information to make informed choices.