Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public Condemns Closure of Taranga FM

Right to information should not be suppressed,” is the view of many people who spoke to The Daily News, denouncing the temporal closure of Taranga FM, a privately-owned community radio station in Sinchu Alagie.
In what is highly suspected to be an order from the National Intelligence Agency, Taranga FM, has temporarily closed-down operations last Thursday. 
For five solid days, people who tune to Taranga for news have been living in the dark.
According to one Lamin Sarr a local businessman, Taranga is the only private radio station that broadcast local news both in English and local languages. He said Taranga is a vital tunnel of information that most of the uneducated people rely on for information.
“The news they air is factual and is reliable. The right to information should not be stifled. They are not criminals, but informers and we all have the right to know what is going on in this country as responsible citizens,” he said.
“Taranga FM has never criticized the government or involved in any political activities. They read news published in the local newspapers and they quote their source clearly. So why not the newspapers”, Omar Ndow, a carpenter told The Daily News. 
For Almamy Jagana who is also a businessman residing in Dippa kunda, The Gambia is sinking in terms of press freedom and the right to information. “We are sinking deeper because the authorities are trying to muzzle people’s right to information. The coming of Taranga FM, broadcasting in the local languages was a great move and people in the Kombos really appreciate it, because not everyone can read or have access to the newspapers. The authorities should prioritize the interest of its people and resurrect the station as soon as possible”.
“I’m surprise that the authorities had to [allegedly] close down the radio’s transmission after all the numerous broadcasts that speak positive of government.  I really condemn the temporary closure. An illiterate person like me can only know what is happening through the electronic media, which Taranga FM has been doing for the past few months. Infact they are the only private radio that airs news in local languages,” said Jagana
He went on: “Though I notice one thing recently, the radio tends to make positive focus more on the government activities-president Jammeh and his ruling party which is the only fault I observed”.
However, he said, the radio failed to broadcast on the opposition activities. I think they are bias because their stories are always one sided nowadays. The voice of the opposition should also be heard for balance hearing. In the past few weeks, I saw the opposition pictures in most of the private newspapers but the radio failed to report on it and still I don’t know what all was about, because I cannot read”.
According to Mohammed Jallow, a shopkeeper it is not a surprise to him that the radio station is shut. The temporary closure of a radio station, which the public benefits from is just ignorant. It seems we are going backward in terms of right to information”
Maimuna Drammeh of London Corner there is no reason for closing the radio as they only read from the local newspapers, if there are any body to suffer it should have been the papers and not the radio. She called for the immediate re-opening of the radio. It is the responsibility of the state to enlighten people, so Taranga is only supplementing.
Modou Bojang a native of Bakau, asked that people be told why Taranga is closed as no reasons are advance so far. The state owes it to the people to explain why. The society should not suffer for nothing. Gambians have suffered enough after the closure of Citizen FM.
Meanwhile, Mr Ismaila Sisay, the proprietor of the radio is unavailable for comments at the time of going to press. However, a reliable source said Mr Sisay yesterday spent a couple of hours at NIA headquarters in Banjul for questioning.
In this media-freedom restricted country, Taranga is the only private radio station that broadcast local news – both in English and local languages - to its audience, something the public seemingly appreciate.
The radio’s regular news programme of reading news published in the local newspapers has attracted growing interest from the public as it serve as the alternative source of news to the state-owned radio, especially for The Gambia’s majority conventionally unlettered people.
Since Taranga started the news programme couple of months ago, there was mounting speculation about the authorities unhappiness about the programme. Its closure may not come as a surprise to many; for Citizen FM that undertook similar programme has been closed-down.

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