By Madi Jobarteh
Intimidation and Harassment Tactics Must Stop in this Country.
The manner of arrest and detention of citizen journalist Bakary Mankajang should worry all citizens to raise their voices to demand a total stop to police intimidation and harassment of citizens.
The Police are created to protect all constitutional rights at all times, and not to scare, intimidate and harangue citizens as if they are slaves, animals or some kind of nonentity. The Police is a noble profession with a sacred duty as the protector and defender of citizens’ rights hence the Police must always exhibit in their actions and decisions the highest values and standards of professionalism, integrity, and decency.
Why should any Gambian citizen be subjected to such maltreatment as meted out to citizen journalist Mankajang? This man is not armed nor even an alleged terrorist but a mere civilian and a journalist. He is not involved in any armed robbery or insurgency, nor has he threatened any individual. How therefore should the Gambian police lock him up away from the world and then deny him food as if he is an alien demon? Why should such abusive ideas and practices still exist in the Gambia Police Force? Why?
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If the Police could do this, just seven years after the end of dictatorship during which such malpractices were common, what then is the IGP telling us about his intentions for the Gambia? Above all, what is Pres. Barrow telling us? What kind of leadership is he providing? What kind of Gambia does he wish to create? The Police is not a terror organization nor is it here to frighten Gambians. Between the Police and citizens, there should only be trust and respect which are earned because the Police approach and handle citizens with dignity and nonviolence.
Mankajang has not violated any law by traveling to Jululung to interview witnesses. These so-called witnesses are not police or court witnesses because they are not testifying before any court of law. More importantly, interviewing witnesses does not tantamount to ‘interfering with witnesses’. In times of disasters and crimes, journalists can talk to victims, alleged perpetrators, family, friends, neighbors, bystanders, and any other individual who may have witnessed or experienced the incident. That is a fundamental role of journalists in the interest of the public and the concerned persons.
I hereby call on the Pres. Adama Barrow to address the IGP and the Gambia Police Force to realize that they cannot arrogate to themselves the unlimited and unchecked power to ‘invite’ any citizen anytime and anyhow and then maltreat them as they like. The Police must abide by the rule of law in their work.
Mr. IGP, I hereby demand that you drop all charges against Bakary Mankajang. I call on the IGP to allow journalists, politicians, activists, and citizens in general to carry on exercising and enjoying their civil and political rights without interference. The incidence of police clampdown on citizens because of their opinions, profession or party work has been increasing since 2017. This is a huge cause for concern as it undermines democracy thereby threatening peace and stability in the country.
The President should tell the IGP to withdraw and allow Democracy to breathe. Just as Pres. Adama Barrow and his ministers, advisors, and NPP surrogates and supporters have the right to express their opinions and severely criticize their opponents, so do all other political parties and their leaders and supporters have the same right.
In that same vein, journalists, academicians, clerics, businesspeople, and activists and indeed all other citizens also have the same right and should enjoy the same safe space to exchange ideas including criticizing one another. The Police should not concern itself with that. Thus, the Police should stop interpreting people’s opinions and work as threats and criminals and therefore arrest them. That is what is called Dictatorship.
For the Gambia Our Homeland