Gambia Press Union

GPU Comes to Saikou Ceesay’s Rescue

By Abdoulie Nget

As part of the fulfillment of their expected duties, the Gambia Press Union have solely paid an amount of100 ,000 Dalasis (approximately 3,300 US Dollars) for the immediate release of Journalist Mr. Saikou Ceesay, who work for The Daily News.

Saikou Ceesay was released on Tuesday from police custody after he was arrested on Monday in connection with the ongoing case of the former Daily Observer Sports editor Nanama Keita, who jumped bail and now lives in the United States of America.
The Daily News reporter provided surety to Nanama Keita, who was standing trial for “giving false information” to a public officer. This was after Kieta petitioned the office of the president protesting his wrongful termination from the observer company.
In a rare move of solidarity, family members joined by a good number of Gambian local journalists stormed the Police Headquarters in Banjul on Tuesday in order to know what would be Saikou Ceesay’s faith. Lawyer Neneh Cham deployed tremendous efforts to make sure that he can be granted bail.
He was later granted bail against 2 sureties provided by the Gambia Press Union’s First Vice-President Baboucarr Ceesay and a family member.
Appearing in court on Wednesday 2nd November, 2011 before the Banjul Magistrates' Court, he was asked by the court to pay the bail bond he signed during his course of bailing Nanama Keita who is now on exile or to go to jail.

Through fruitful discussion with the GPU authorities, Emil Touray, the president of the Gambia Press Union left the secretariat with the 100,000 Dalasis in cash to rescue the journalist Saikou Ceesay who is also a member of the GPU executive committee.

GPU Granted Observer Status by ACHPR

After applying under the ARTICLE 19/GPU EC funded project recently, The Gambia Press Union has for the first time was granted an observer status by the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights session, which is ongoing in The Gambia.

This will accord GPU the opportunity to table their progresses, shortcomings and huddles faced in trying to seeking as well as disseminating information for the commission to hear, they can as well seek support from the commission to help approach The Gambian government to introduce freedom of information law.

The news emerged as good news to all media practitioners and the people interested in press and media freedom in the country. Aloa Ahmed Alota, the executive director of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) expressed his delight about the news by saying that is excellent news. “It is a turning point in the history of the GPU. I can't wait to celebrate - there will be a big party at the Secretariat in late November to coincide with the safety and security training workshop.”

He thanked the almighty for the success and everyone who has helped in this process.

Commendations are coming from various people who are always seeking to see the GPU and The Gambia media progress in the fight for freedom of information well as access to information.

Bruno Menzan a staff of Article 19, based in Dakar Senegal commended the Union for the success and said congratulation to all you who worked toward the attainment of this
objective and we wish GPU will take full advantage of this status which
allows the GPU to make statements at the commission sessions.

For Madi Jobarteh of TANGO, GPU is in a position of strength in spite of the harassments it faced. It is the most formidable CSO in The Gambia, and certainly in a stronger position than the Government, and we need to assume this position of power even more strongly and utilize it effectively.

 

Demba Jawo, a former GPU president hails the news saying that it gives the GPU an important platform through which to highlight some important issues affecting the media in The Gambia. All that it demands is to plan well ahead for issues to be raised at Commission sessions.

 

Sam Sarr of FOROYAA also urged the union to take full advantage of the opportunity and use it effectively.

Information Minister Tells Journalists: ‘Don’t Be Partisan’

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Gambia’s minister for Information and Communication Infrastructure on Monday warned against a polarised media industry, urging Gambian journalists to observe neutrality in party politics.
“As media practitioners, you should guard your integrity, be sincere, truthful, and accurate, and be impartial because you have an obligation to provide a truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of daily events to the society,” said Minister Alagie Cham in a statement read on his behalf by information directress,  Aisha Davies during a week-long long training for twenty Gambian journalists on “International Standards for Freedom of Expression for Journalists at Gambia Press Union secretariat.
Under the auspices of Gambia Press Union and Article 19, the programme is funded by the European Union (EU).
“As journalists, you should be non-partisan. You should make sure that you weed out the sensation and focus on the matter,” he said.
Minister Cham said, Gambia government attaches a lot of importance in the development of the media in Gambia.
This, he added, is manifested by the proliferation of newspapers and radio stations in recent years.
“It is important to note that the media is the most powerful tool for communication and it is both an influential and inevitable factor in the socio-politico-economic development of a nation,” he added further.
Against this backdrop, Cham emphasised the need for Gambian journalists to be equipped with requisite knowledge to efficiently execute their duties.
For Mr Bai Emil Touray, president of Gambia Press Union, the government of The Gambia has its shortcomings and called for constructive dialogue to addressing the challenges.
Mr Touray urged the participants to deliver to expectation so that funders like EU and others will come on board to fund more programs for Gambian journalists.
“Together we can make a difference and I want to make a difference in The Gambian media together with you,” he pointed out.
The training in general focuses on Standards of Freedom of Expression. 20 Gambian journalists selected from over 48 applicants months ago are taking part. Out of the twenty, the best ten will be selected to attend a ‘Right to Protection’ training programme.

Author: Abdoulie Nget & Lamin Njie

 

Training on Int’l Standards on Freedom of Expression begins today

A group of 20 Gambian journalists are expected to begin a training on International Standard on Freedom of Expression, today, 3rd October, 2011, at the Gambia Press Union (GPU) Secretariat along Garba Jahumpa Road in Bakau.

The training, organised by Article 19 in partnership with the GPU and funded by the European Commission (EC), will last till the 7th October, 2011.

Topics that will be treated during the training include: Freedom of Expression under International Law; Freedom of Expression under African Regional Standards; GPU Self regulation; Protection of journalistic sources; Legal protection in cases of violence against journalists; Defamation and international standards of Freedom of Expression; Right to information under International Law and most importantly, Freedom of Expression and National Security, amongst others.

Under the Freedom of Expression and National Security component, important issues such as the need to balance national security interests and freedom of expression; presentation of international standards and outlining best practices in the area, among others, will be discussed.

 

Author: Assan Sallah

Reform of the media dominates landmark Commonwealth forum in Gambia

http://www.cja-uk.org/articles/reform-of-the-media-dominates-landmark-commonwealth-forum-in-gambia/By Trevor Grundy

Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) London

THE GAMBIA, Africa’s smallest country and an intriguing microcosm of all the hopes and problems that impact on the world’s largest but hungriest continent, is now open to a full debate on laws that affect the freedom of the press. 

Speaking at a five-day media Forum and Capacity Building event convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Management Development Institute and the Gambian Government in Banjul from 1-5 August (2011), Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Momodou Tangara told delegates:

”The hosting of this Forum and Workshop in The Gambia is timely and commendable as they no doubt unleash the potential of media practitioners and enable them to use the skills and knowledge gained meaningfully.

“Efforts to set up the School of Communication at the University of The Gambia is a step in the right direction.

“This way our practicing journalists, who are largely high school leavers, would have the opportunity to learn about the media and practice the profession in the best and most mature way. 

“Please allow me to express our commitment as a government to enhance and develop the media and our recognition of its invaluable role in the socio-economic development of nations.”

Dr Tangara spoke after the Forum drew a series of recommendations that called for the reform of the legal environment, capacity building and greater networking among journalism schools in the region and other parts of the Commonwealth.

It was attended by a host of leading African academics, journalists and politicians including the Gambian Minister for Information Infrastructure, Alhagie Cham.

The two-day Forum was followed by a three-day Training Programme organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, with members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) making up the team of trainers.

A delegation led by the Director of Political Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, Amitav Banerji, briefed the media on the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Perth, Western Australia, in October.

A delegation led by Mr Banerji met the Gambian Vice-President, Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, with whom he discussed CHOGM as well as Commonwealth values and principles. 

Ministers Tangara and Cham urged the local media to show greater responsibility, objectivity and professionalism in order to be ‘the voice of the voiceless’ and a ‘guarantor of good governance.’

During the five day Forum and capacity building event – which coincided with the start of Ramadan – the Chapter President of the CJA, Rita Payne, reached agreement in principle with journalists from Cameroon, Sierra Leone and The Gambia on opening branches in the three West African countries. 

Commenting on the role of the media, not only in the Gambia but also throughout the Commonwealth, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, Special Adviser and Head of the Africa Section in the Political Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: 

”The media has three key roles in contributing to democratization and good governance, namely as watchdog over the powerful, promoting accountability, transparency and public scrutiny; as a civic forum for political debate, facilitating informal electoral choices and actions; and as an agenda-setter for policy makers, strengthening government responsiveness to social problems and to exclusion.” 

The Forum and Training Session coincided with mounting anger in The Gambia and other parts of the world that the media is tightly controlled by government ministers and that journalists are threatened, imprisoned and sometimes tortured in that West African state (population 1.7 million).

Ebrima Manneh has been missing since 7 July, 2006 and the country’s best known journalist and publisher Deyda Hydara was murdered in a drive-by shooting on the night of 16 December 2004.

”His death plunged the country into a mood of despondency and the media community into a profound shock which it has yet to fully recover,” say Aloa Ahmed Alota and Demba Ali Jawo, co-authors of the best – selling book about the life and times of Deyda Hydara, a book called “A Living Mirror”(The Point Press, 2007) which is presently on sale throughout The Gambia.

(Trevor Grundy is a British journalist who participated as a CJA trainer in the Gambia from 1-6 August, 2011)

Gambia, Zambia, Africa Revisited and London in Flames

WE’D FLOWN into Banjul, capital city of Africa’s smallest country The Gambia (which tourists annoyingly call The Zambia) at the end of July to conduct a week-long training seminar for young radio, TV and print journalists at the local university. The training workshop was organised by the Commonwealth Secertariat in London with members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) making up the team of trainers. It all went well and on the final day a crowd of us from UK, Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, India and Kenya celebrated at the five star Sheraton Hotel, fighting off the heat and humidity with endless bottles of  ice-cold JulBrew beer. It was the month of Ramadan so our beautifully turned out students – about 40 of them – had nothing to eat from 6 am until 8 pm – not even a glass of water in the fierce heat. I heard  no single word of complaint. When classes ended at the legal affairs department of the University of Gambia  at 5pm, students went outside, laid out their prayer mats and paid homage to Allah. Food seemed the last thing on their minds.by Trevor Grundy (CJA member)
About 90 percent of the Gambia’s 1.7 million people are Muslims and relations with the 8-9 percent Christian minority are good. I said to Amos Chanda, the personable Zambian journalist and media consultant from Lusaka: ”Things went well, Amos. I think they learned a great deal from us.” We mentioned the discipline of the Gambian students, their charm, alertness, their thirst for knowledge and hunger for  “foreign” contact and support at a time when the freedom of the press in their country (and in my own) is in danger.

“Cheers Zambian Man,” I said.

We clinked glasses and got ready to fly home. Before leaving, Amos said:  ”You’re right. They learned a lot from us but I think we learned quite a bit from them, too.”

THE PLANE was an hour and half late leaving Banjul Airport. We landed in Brussels at 5 am Sunday,  7 August. I soon picked up the news that overnight parts of London, where I was brought up before leaving the UK for Zambia in 1966, had been set alight by marauding gangs of teenagers.I telephoned my wife in Kent. She said the situation was unclear. Rioting was taking place all over London. The trigger had been the shooting of a black man by police officers.Buildings had been torched, thousands of young, wild, hooded (many un-hooded) teenagers were looting shops, carrying off flat-top TV sets, mobile phones, computers – anything expensive and electronic. Anything of value they could get their hands on.

Back home in the sleepy village-size town where I live by the sea a picture of total chaos emerged on TV as the riots and the lootings moved out of London up north to Birmingham, Manchester and other parts of run down England where youth unemployment is sky high and where the young were protesting –in the words of the respected  newspaper  columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ,”with terrible inarticulacy against a destiny that never changes.” In most parts of London, the police stood back and appeared to let the rioters have their day.Reaction set in on Monday night when 16,000 policemen patrolled the streets of the British capital which next year will host the Olympic Games and Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne.

“British youths are the most unpleasant and violent in the world” yelled the right-wing “Daily Mail”.

“UK riots: What turns people into looters?” asked the BBC News Magazine.

“London simmers as flames spread,” roared The Times.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson flew home from their summer holidays and so did hundreds of MPs who held a special parliamentary session.They all  nodded their agreement that something terribly wrong had happened  over the last few decades –some awful moral, family , religious breakdown.But with British pluck and Churchillian resilience all will be well. What’s needed is a bit more belt tightening and, as the Australians say, “she’ll come right.” Believe it if you want to.

A WOMAN who received a pair of stolen trousers from her rampaging neighbour has just been sentenced to five months imprisonment. Ursula Nevin (mother of two small children) who slept through the opening night of the riots, took a pair of shorts from a £629 haul of clothing and accesories stolen in Manchester by her housemate, Gemma Corsill. People convicted of joining in the riots might lose unemployment benefits and lose their subsidised homes. Wandsworth Council (London) announced that the first eviction notice had been served – to the mother of an 18-year-old boy accused of violent disorder and attempted theft. The teenager has not yet been convicted but has appeared in court in connection with disturbances at Clapham Junction. Other authorities, including Westminster, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Nottingham and Salford, are also considering evicting those found to have taken part in the unrest. An eviction notice is the first step leading to a final decision made by a judge sitting in a county court.

Chris Goulden, programme manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, condemned the actions. “There’s a real danger here. The courts are there to punish wrongdoing through the justice system. It’s not fair for a family to suffer because of the action of one individual. It means families who happen to be living in that kind of accommodation are punished twice, double what anyone else in society would be.” Kate Green, Labour MP and former chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said the evictions were wrong. “It’s absolutely right that people should go through the due process of the courts but these evictions are something entirely different. That a whole family should be evicted because of the behaviour of one family member, and their siblings should be made homeless, is not right at all. Less than a month after the looting started, bankers who have helped bring the British economy to its knees were paid £14.2 billion in bonuses.

FOR THE TIME being, the riots have ended.Politicians are preening themselves, claiming that by returning home and speaking up so boldly against anarchy they have saved Middle England from anarchy. Meantime, the police will see their numbers reduced by around 20 percent next year to save money.

MILLIONS OF WORDS have been written about the August chaos in England. Books, TV programmes, learned articles will be written in academic magazines, material is there for future PhDs. Most of the words are little more than middle class hot air, righteous anger from angry sheep MPs who en masse fiddle  their expenses claims, shiver with fear the moment a tabloid  editor criticises them and who dare not open their mouths on the explosive issue of bankers’ bonuses in case they’re criticised by . . .  tabloid editors. But remarks made by one of Britain’s best known historians David Starkey (a specialist in Tudor England) were  disturbing.On the popular TV programme “Newsnight,” this highly paid and massively successful academic said  that the riots happened because white kids in Britain have turned “black”, wearing low slung pants and that they  have absorbed the mutinous ways of Caribbeans  and Africans.

Jamaican patois, too, has intruded on England and made England (for him and others like him) “a foreign country.”

Said Yasmin  Alibhai-Brown: ”We now know that a celebrity academic can be stupid and a careless carrier of unattended, infectious bigotry.”

I CARRY ON reading about the causes of the riots and I keep on thinking, too, about the young men and women I was with so recently in The Gambia, my first working trip to Africa since I left the continent in 1996.

Historian Starkey believes that young England is being influenced by blacks and their “mutinous ways.”

Next time there’s a Commonwealth training programme in The Gambia (or even The Zambia) he might like to take my place and learn a thing or two about what young blacks in Africa are really like.

Might be a book in it and, with a bit of luck on his side, another chance to talk to millions of confused and frightened Britons about what most black Africans are like on “Newsnight.”

(Trevor Grundy lived and worked as a reporter in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa from 1966-1996 and today lives in Kent where he works as a broadcaster, writer and researcher)

The Gambia open to debate on media reform – ministers

Commonwealth convenes landmark media forum in Gambian capital Banjul

The Gambia is open to debate on media reform, which it recognises as critical to economic and political development, Gambian ministers said on 1 August 2011.

Foreign Affairs Minister Momodou Tangara and Information and Communication Infrastructure Minister Alhagie Cham told local and international media, Gambian civil society, diplomats and communication scholars, that their government recognised media as important agents of development and were prepared to do their part in promoting that notion.

But the ministers also urged media to show greater responsibility, maturity, objectivity and professionalism, in order to be the genuine voice of the voiceless and a true guarantor of good governance.

The ministers spoke at the opening of the five-day Gambia Commonwealth Media Forum and workshop – hailed as the first opportunity for debate on media freedom and practice in the West African country, one of the 19 Commonwealth members from Africa. The Commonwealth Secretariat convened the event in collaboration with the Gambian Government and The Gambia’s Management Development Institute.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba told the forum that a vibrant media reflected a functioning democracy and was a mirror of development facilitation, and ultimately a mirror of sustained public dialogue.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba’s speech was delivered on her behalf by Ambassador Ayo Oke, Head of Africa Section in the Secretariat's Political Affairs Division.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba said the Commonwealth had made ‘governance' one of its main priorities and had devoted considerable resources to the promotion of political reform and to building capacities of state institutions involved in governance, especially in promotion of democracy, electoral management and the rule of law; in strengthening the judiciary; and in support of broader public sector governance and institutional development.

“The media is a critical partner and has contributed to the delivery of our governance programmes. It has provided the platform for debates, highlighted some of the abuses of government control over the media, set standards, trained journalists – just as we are doing in this special programme on media and economic development,” Mrs Masire-Mwamba said.

She also spoke of the Commonwealth’s values of good democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law. She highlighted that media and government could partner in promoting this agenda.

“A basic prerequisite is for the media to submit to a robust self-regulation in order to be a credible arbiter and veritable conscience of the society. This, of course, should be supported by positive regulation by governments through enabling legislation that allows freedom of expression in a responsive and responsible manner,” she said.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba called on both the Gambia Government and the media to embrace mutual respect and commit to play their respective roles in ensuring citizens were well informed of issues in preparation for and in the aftermath of general elections expected later this year.

Delivering the keynote address, Nigerian editor Segun Adeniji said the media landscape in The Gambia had raised some concerns domestically and internationally. He said a growing perception that the Gambian Government was hostile to media and had laws on its statutes restricting media freedom undermined its economic and development agenda.

“I hope that regressive statutes have been dropped in sync with modern trends. If not, this requires action as a shackled media definitely cannot promote economic development,” said Mr Adeniji, chairman of the editorial board of THISDAY newspapers, one of Nigeria’s top newspaper brands.

Ex-GPU President, Dr Scatred Janneh, others face treason charges

The state has finally preferred charges of treason against Dr Amadou Scatred Janneh, former communications minister.

The state also now announced the same treason charge against Ms Ndey Tapha Sosseh, former president of the Gambia Press Union, Mathew K. Jallow, US-based Gambian, and one Famara Demba.

Dr. Janneh also faces a two-count charge of seditious acts alongside Michel C. Ucheh Thomas, Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, all of whom were previously arraigned at the high court in Banjul.

During their appearance at the Special Criminal Court yesterday, both Janneh, Thomas, Keita and Ebrima Jallow denied the charges preferred against them.

However, Ms Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K Jallow and Famara Demba are said to be out of the jurisdiction of the court.

State prosecutors accuse Dr. Janneh on count one of treason, stating that he conspired with Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow, Famara Demba, and others at large on  26th May 2011 in diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia to overthrow the government of The Gambia.

Dr Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow, and Famara Demba were also accused of preparing to overthrow the government of the Gambia by unlawful means on  26th May 2011 in diverse places in the Gambia and elsewhere.

On count three, prosecutors further charged Dr. Janneh, Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow, and Micheal C. Ucheh Thomas with seditious acts.

Prosecutors said the four accused persons and others at large conspired amongst themselves on 26th May 2011 at diverse places in The Gambia to print and distribute 100 T-shirts which carried seditious statements to wit; “Coalition for Change the Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”

Dr. Janneh, Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow, Micheal C.Ucheh, and others at large are also accused to have on or about the 26th May 2011 at diverse places in the Republic of The Gambia with intent to cause or bring into hatred, contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the president  or the government of The Gambia, printed and distributed 100 T-shirt carrying seditious statements to wit; “Coalition for Change the Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”

Shortly after plea taking, state prosecutor applied for an adjournment in the case for hearing to commence by the next adjounment date.

Defence Counsel Lamin S Camara representing the accused persons did not raise any objection to the application, and the trial judge, Justice Joseph Ikpala, subsequently adjourned the case till 13th October 2011.

It would be recalled that Dr. Janneh and his co-accused were previously arraigned at the

Banjul Magistrate Court

charged with treason, conspiracy and sedition but the matter was later transferred to the high court, which has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Following their appearance at the high court, the prosecution, on two occasions, did not file substantial charges against the accused persons, until yesterday when they presented the charges.

Janneh, a former political science lecturer in the US and at one time a political and economic affairs officer at the US Embassy in Banjul, came to court with his co-accused persons in handcuffs and legs shackled, amidst tight security.

Author: Sainey M.K. Marenah

 

Browsing Freedom Newspaper Costs Editor Keita His Job

Pro-government Daily Observer newspaper’s sports editor was fired after he was discovered to have browsed Freedom, a U.S based Gambian online newspaper, Observer’s acting editor-in-chief has revealed.

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Mr Nanama Keita is alleged to have presented false information to a public officer when he petitioned The Daily Observer managing director to the president’s office on allegations of financial malpractices at the company, following his dismissal, he calls wrongful.
Editor Keita however denied any wrong-doing
“When it was realised by the IT expert that Mr Nanama Keita had browsed the Freedom newspaper, the MD [Pa Malick Faye] was left with no other option but to sack him,” Editor Alagie Jobe testified in a crowded courtroom on Monday at the Banjul Magistrate’s Court.
Critical to the regime of President Yahya Jammeh, Freedom is a Gambian online newspaper owned and edited Pa Nderry Mbai, a U.S based Gambian journalist. Journalist Mbai had worked for The  Daily Observer and later The Point newspaper before he left for U.S. in 2004. 
In his testimony, Editor  Jobe said, the article on alleged financial malpractices against The  Daily Observer’s managing director, Pa Malick Faye published on Freedom came after MD Faye privileged him to control a vehicle allocated to the editorial desk.
“I head the editorial department and the accused is answerable to me,” he said.
“A day after the vehicle was handed-over to me, I received a telephone called  from the MD Faye at around 10 pm; that the editor of Freedom newspaper telephoned him on the claims that he (MD) bought a vehicle for me and [he is responsible] for other financial malpractices.”
He added: “That night I was summoned for a meeting alongside Assan Sallah, the news editor, marketing manager, and one Lamin Sanneh. The accused was not invited.”
Jobe claimed that the article that was published on Freedom newspaper was sent to them by a friend because, he said, they cannot access the website.
 However, he told the court that he knew who sent the article the moment he read it. But the same Editor Jobe in a short while denied saying that statement when cross-examined by   Neneh Cham, the defense counsel for the accused.
Jobe revealed that the accused was invited at the same night when his computer was screened by the IT expert and it was found that he has contacts with Freedom.
The moment all those things were discovered, he explained, the managing director ordered the seizure of Nanama’s computer.
Freedom, though, continued to publish articles related to the subject.
Jobe alleged the accused angrily left and wrote a statement when he knew that he could not be re-instated.
“He begged me many times to talk to the managing director,” editor Jobe revealed, referring to his former co-worker who had been with the Daily Observer company since 2003 shortly after completing his secondary school education and rose through various ranks from freelancer, columnist, staff reporter and sports editor.
“And after few days later,” editor Jobe went on, “We received investigators regarding the financial malpractices alleged by the accused.”
Nanama was subsequently charged after it was realised that the petition he wrote to the president about his wrongful termination was false, Jobe said.

Author: Binta A Bah

‘Former GRTS reporter has case to answer’

Dodou Sanneh, former reporter with the Gambia Radio and Television Services, who is being tried for allegedly giving false information, was yesterday told by the court that he has a case to answer.

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This followed a ruling by Magistrate Manyima Bojang of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on a no-case submission made by his defence counsel, Borry Touray.

When the case was called, defence counsel Borry Touray told the court that the defence was applying to make a no-case submission on behalf of the accused person.

“I humbly submit that the prosecution has failed to make any prima-facie case against the accused person, and as such the court should dismiss the charge and discharge the accused person,” he said.

Counsel added that the offence before this court was, giving false information to a public servant, adding that if one of the ingredients failed then the prosecution has failed to make any prima facie case against the accused person.    

Counsel at length stated that since the Office of the President is not defined by the constitution as a public servant, then the prosecution had failed to proof a prima facie against the accused person.

Delivering her ruling, the trial magistrate told the court that the section of the constitution quoted by the defence was being misused by defence counsel, by way of interpreting the section in their favour.

She consequently overruled the no-case submission, and called on the accused person to enter into his defence.

The case was at that juncture adjourned till 8 August 2011, for defence.

It would be recalled that Dodou Sanneh allegedly in this year wrote to the Office of the President, stating that his service was wrongfully terminated as a reporter with the Gambia Radio and Television Services, which information he knew to be false, and thereby committed an offence.

Author: Bakary Samateh

NaNA Briefs Journalists on World Breastfeeding Week

By Amie Sanneh

The National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) Yesterday held a press briefing in observance of World Breastfeeding Week celebrations to brief journalists on the importance of the theme and its activities. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Talk To Me! Breastfeeding- A 3D Experience.
Speaking to journalists, the Executive Director of NaNA Modou Cheyassin Phall said, 1st August every year marks the beginning of the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week observed worldwide. In the Gambia, according to him, it is observed throughout the month of August.
He described the theme as significant; noting that it seeks to underscore the importance of communication at various levels and sectors using different and innovative approaches. He said it also aims amongst others at encouraging the use of new media to reach larger number of people with breastfeeding information. He said in the modern world many events impact life positively and negatively which influence their perception on breastfeeding. According to Mr. Phall there are conflicting advice and messages from the media advertisement that at times sees many dolls advertised and sold with bottles and the breast portrayed as sex objects. This he said are negative media campaign which affects many mothers particularly the new and young inexperienced mothers. He explained that effectively communicating breastfeeding information does not only enlighten mothers but also empowers and helps them identify people in their natural social network. He further stated that preparing men as breastfeeding advocates creates shared awareness, accountability and support as evidence in the Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) villages.
Also speaking to journalists, the UNICEF’s Communication Specialist Sally Singhateh described World Breastfeeding Week as significant, noting that it promotes child survival and development and good maternal health. She said the week reminds all that, worldwide, over 24,000 children die every day mainly from preventable diseases. She added that exclusively breastfeeding a child for the first six months help prevent such diseases. In the Gambia, she remarked that according to data from UNICEF’s MICS exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months practice has been low even though people are aware of its significance. She therefore stressed the need for relevant messages to reach the communities especially the marginalized. Madam Singhateh pointed out that the theme calls for the use of new age technology or the 3D experience which includes the media, to innovatively communicate breastfeeding and get people to talk about it, the social networks and traditional communicators. She called on the media to communicate the relevant messages to the people.
The Program Officer of NaNA Malang Fofana gave a presentation on the importance of breastfeeding. He said breastfeeding contains all the nutrients a baby may need. He said it also serves as a food and nutrition security for the child. He added that it is good for the physical growth of the child. Breast milk also protects children against infection, malnutrition, diarrhea and other preventable diseases he said.
The chairperson of the occasion Amat Bah described breastfeeding as an important tool for the survival, security, and wellbeing of the child. He also stressed the need to protect, promote and support breastfeeding thus underscoring the importance of the celebration.
Activities marking this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations will take the form of radio programmes, interactive dialogue with Village Support Groups (VSGs), Religious leaders and the women federation; training and symposium by the NaNA Children’s Club and open field days by the health facilities implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).

MEDIA HAS KEY ROLE IN DEMOCRATISATION AND GOOD GOVERNANCE Says Ambassador Ayo Oke of the Commonwealth

By Ousman Sillah

“The media has three key roles in contributing to democratisation and good governance, namely, as a watchdog over the powerful, promoting accountability, transparency and public scrutiny; as a civic forum for political debate, facilitating informed electoral choices and actions; and as an agenda-setter for policy makers, strengthening government responsiveness to social problems and to exclusion,” said Ambassador Ayodele Oke, Special Adviser and Head of Africa Section in the Political Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
This remark was made by Ambassador Oke in his address during the opening of the 1-5 August Commonwealth Media and Development Forum and Capacity Building hosted by the government of the Gambia in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, at the Sheraton Hotel near Brufut.
The Commonwealth Head of Africa Section said a vibrant media is indispensable for promoting good governance considering that journalists play a critical role in the decision making process by drawing attention to policy debates, disseminating valuable information, and holding governments accountable. He however noted that this is not always the case as media practitioners sometimes miss or misinterpret events.
Elaborating on his address entitled ‘Media, Good Governance and Transparency in Public Institutions in Africa, Ambassador Oke said the primary role of governments is to ensure the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. This, he said, implies that governments are prime movers of development, and institution-creation in social, economic and political spheres and often anticipate some degree of collaboration and partnership with the media who are, for this purpose, regarded as the constituents of the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’.
“The Commonwealth views governance as ‘the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels’.”
The Commonwealth Head of Africa Section said good governance enables the development of public values by promoting the principles of accountability, transparency, capacity and participation throughout the institutions and processes that regulate the public realm. He added that good governance is therefore a fundamental requirement for a nation’s progress and general well-being.
Ambassador Oke said “A free, independent and professional media is a critical pillar of any governance system based on democratic accountability and it is at the centre of the struggle to attain good governance and transparency in public institutions.”
He elaborated on the key issues of the two positions – the right to manage information by governments and the right to know, which the media advocates for. He however said “we can attest to the fact that in many African countries there appears to be a yawning gap between what is publicly known – and knowable – and what is unofficially and un-attributably understood.”
To this, he added, the argument about openness of government process will continue to be at the forefront of democratic debates and will define the kind of political space open to the media to, not only play its role of holding governments to account, but also remain relevant in the context of guaranteeing good governance at all levels of public administration.
Ambassador Oke cited the 2003 Aso Rock Declaration on Development and Democracy in which the Commonwealth Heads of Government reaffirmed their commitment to making democracy work and better for pro-poor development and citizens’ right to information. This provides for Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation which comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state, the “right to know” legal process.
The Commonwealth Head of Africa Section reveals that 84 countries around the world have Freedom of Information laws and that “the African record is a far distance from the ideal”. It is only South Africa (2000), Zimbabwe (2002), Uganda (2005), Liberia (2010) and NIGERIA (2011) that have some form of legislation on FOI while Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique and Sierra Leone are contemplating to join the fold.
On the role of journalists, Ambassador Oke said journalists must first awaken their fellow citizens; hold their governments to account and provide basic information and analyses that promote quality decisions by public and private actors. Secondly, he said, journalists must be professional as to be able to interpret international forces, placing their own home turf into the context of the wider world especially with regard to issues of good governance, transparency and development.
He challenged the media to reassert itself to play the role of watch-dog and citizen advocate in the political and economic fields notwithstanding the configuration of the political space or environment.
“As a final word, I would like to suggest that the time has come for media in Africa to re-focus on the key issues of democracy and development, governance and growth,” said Ambassador Oke.
He assured that the Commonwealth stands ready to engage the media on these themes.
“The starting point will be to entrench the elements of transparency, accountability and good governance at the centre of our collective engagements with our leaders and public institutions at all levels.”
In his opening statement, Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, said the Government of The Gambia is not only interested in problems but solutions. He said the Government is trying to put in place the basic prerequisites, including the enabling environment for the Gambian media practitioners.
Minister Tangara noted that they have no doubt that the forum would provide the participants with the opportunity to engage in dialogue on media development and professionalism within the context of the country’s political and economic development agenda. The forum, he said, is expected to impart in the local journalists the necessary professional competence that is vital to media development.
“The hosting of the this event by The Gambia manifests the Government of The Gambia’s political will to facilitate the establishment of a professional media that plays its proper and responsible role constructively in the country’s development and democratisation process.
The Foreign Affairs Minster acknowledged the role of the media as undisputed, adding that it is expected to inform, investigate, educate and entertain. “But we also know that the media sometimes distort and mislead”, said Minister Tangara.
“A deep democracy functions in no small part through an informed and engaged citizenry. Therefore, the media should also provide a realm for debate and a lubricant to the effective functioning of democratic processes,” he said.
He added that media should present itself as “voice of the people, accommodating all constructive and substantiated views and ensuring that marginal voices and ideas are also heard.”
Mr. Alhaji Abdoulie Cham, Minister on Information and Communication Infrastructure and Vice Chancellor Professor Muhammadou Kah of The University of The Gambia both address the participants in the opening ceremony.
The forum came up with key recommendations for Government, Commonwealth and media which include among others the need for the decriminalization of laws on libel and sedition, the promotion of tolerance, collaboration, dialogue, training and participation.
Practitioners from the print and electronic media, private and public, civil society representatives and UTG attended the two days forum. The journalists from the print and electronic media participated in the capacity building sessions from the 3-5 August 2011.

New GPU Executive Up To the Task

In its first media dispatch signed by outspoken secretary general Jibairu Janneh, the newly elected nine-member executive committee of Gambia Press Union (GPU) pledges to champion the course of freedom of expression in non-press free Gambia.

The executive committee of Gambian journalists’ umbrella body also expresses commitment to promoting the welfare of generally underpaid, ill-equipped Gambian journalists.

Cognizant of the fact that our mandate revolves around promoting the welfare of journalists and championing the course of press freedom and freedom of expression in The Gambia, we guarantee the general membership of the union, partners and the public at large of our resounding commitment to the demands of our mandate and as well solicit collective support and commitment, to advocate for our common aspirations,” the release states.   

The Foroyaa newspaper news editor, Bai Emil Touray led executive committee was on Sunday elected to run the affairs of the union for the next years at the end of a three day triennial congress.

The congress heard angry outbursts by journalists over a range of issues, including unfair employment contracts and low pay for the services of journalists.

Meanwhile, Touray replaces GPU’s first-ever female president Ndey Tapha Sosseh, who was denied the needed votes to continue her presidency for the second and final three year term. 

“This newly elected executive committee of the union therefore wishes to seize this opportunity to congratulate all members, media chiefs, partners and all other stakeholders that contributed in one way or the other to the success of the congress. We also wish to commend the previous executive body for the achievements that brought the union to this day.”

Although, the tenure of the outgoing GPU executive witnessed increased government crackdown on the media, the new executive committee assures commitment  to working closely with the government of The Gambia to ‘promote press freedom, democracy and development.’

The elected executive committee consists of the following: President: Bai Emil Touray, 1st vice president: Babucarr Ceesay, 2nd vice president: Amie Sanneh Bojang, Secretary General: Gibairu Janneh, 1st Assistant Secretary General: Madi S. Njie, 2nd Assistant Secretary General: lamin Njie, Treasurer: Haddijatou Jawara, Co-opted members: Saikou Ceesay and Sarjo Camara Singhateh.

Outgoing GPU Prexy Congratulates New Executive

Exiled former president of The Gambia Press Union (GPU), who was voted out last weekend at the Union’s triennial congress, has passed on good wishes to her replacement, Mr Bai Emil Touray and team.
“I write to congratulate you on your election as president, executive members of the Gambia Press Union,” Ms Ndey Tapha Sosseh said.
The Gambian journalists’ umbrella body’s first women president was denied a second and final term of office after steering the affairs of the Union in the last three years.
She took over the leadership in 2008 from the publisher of The Daily News, Mr Madi Ceesay, who stepped down after the elapse of his three year tenure.
Despite many challenges, Ndey and team’s tenure have witnessed remarkable improvements in GPU, especially in terms of capacity building for journalists and enhancing the financial status of the Union.
She was nominated for the presidency in absentia, but lost to her secretary general, Bai Emil Touray, who has been in GPU executive for the past six years.
The Foroyaa newspaper news editor comfortably polled 36 votes compared to Mr Famara Jawneh, deputy editor in chief of The Point newspaper and Ms Sosseh who collected 19 and 14 votes respectively.
The rest of the members of the newly elected GPU executive are: Mr Baboucarr Ceesay, first vice president, Amie Sanneh, second vice president, Gibairu Janneh, secretary general, Madi Njie, first assistant secretary general, Lamin Njie, second assistant secretary general, Haddija Jawara, treasurer, Sarjo Camara and Saikou Ceesay, co-opted  members.
“I do hope that this tenure will build on the achievements, successes of our previous mandate,” said Ms Sosseh in a note made available to The Daily News.
She added: “As you know we will have to make a formal handing over, let me know when you are available and we can do this over Skype. I’ll also do you some handing over notes and documentation from my end and will be sent to you.”

Source Daily News

ACTIVITY REPORT OUTGOING GPU PRESIDENT, NDEY TAPHA SOSSEH ON THE OCCASION OF THE TRIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE GAMBIA PRESS UNION

Members,
Colleagues,
Partners,
Friends of the Gambia Press Union,


Having addressed you at the opening ceremony, through Pa Momodu Faal, outgoing treasurer,
let me express my delight at being able to join you by skype link this morning to account for
activities/resources that this Union executive led by me since March 22, 2008, embarked on,
implemented and spent in your name and on your behalf.
Three days of talks and discussions on the way forward is no easy feat, as I do have a lot to say,
I’ll go directly into my report.
Our three years and three months of tenure have been very eventful, very visible, most times
under the microscopic view of State and other interested parties and as such had us on our toes,
at all times. This, tiring as it may be, must be a good thing as we always felt pushed to deliver
and to be upfront in our dealings with our membership, partners and the State.


CAPACITY BUILDING AND TRAINING
Strengthening Freedom of Expression Protection in The Gambia
The GPU in partnership with ARTICLE 19 (main applicant) applied for support under the EU
Non-State Actors Programme to jointly implement programmes in Freedom of Expression,
Media Standards, safety and security of journalists and advocacy.
The objectives of this project are to:
 Strengthen and protect freedom of expression in The Gambia in order to promote
transparent and accountable government
 Enhance the capacity of Gambian journalists and its umbrella organization, the GPU to
defend their right to freedom of expression and protect themselves against censorship
and persecution
 Engage government, civil society and other key actors in dialogue about The Gambia's
international obligation to protect freedom of expression
 Increase quality of national and international awareness about freedom of expression in
The Gambia
Three training workshops are to be conducted under this project: Freedom of Expression
Standards training, the safety & security training and the advocacy training. Trainees (the best of
the team) will also get other incentives such as work placements in the Article 19 Dakar Office,
some Senegalese media and advocacy institutions to enable them better understand and
appreciate the role of the journalist, strengthened and capacitated press union, members. It is
anticipated that the future GPU and media leaders will emerge from such types of targeted
interventions and will help improve free expression situation in the Gambia. As part of this
project, GPU has been able to chip a lawyer on retainer basis.
Under this partnership, ARTICLE 19 will transfer 20,610 Euros to the GPU based on the
following timeline: (a) 40% (8,244 Euros) two weeks upon signing of the contract and receipt of
the initial project funds from the European Commission (b) 50% (10, 305 Euros) two weeks
upon submission of first progress report (c) 10% upon receipt and approval of all outputs, final
narrative and financial report from the European Commission.
The GPU is responsible for implementation of all project activities in The Gambia based on the
project work plan, namely:
 Coordinate the organization of training programmes including selection of participants
 Conduct monitoring of FoE trends in The Gambia and draft reports
 Supervise local project staff
 Reach out to media houses and other civil society organizations and government officials
The project started in April 2011 and first course announcement for the Freedom of Expression
training with the deadline for applications Friday, June 24, 2011.
Media for Development – Development for Media (GPU/GAMES Partnership Project II)
 Training of Trainers (Professional Reporter) Course:
A component of the 30-month MEDIA FOR DEVELOPMENT – DEVELOPMENT FOR
MEDIA (GPU/GAMES Partnership Project II), is the ongoing training of trainers two-year
diploma course for 20 Gambian journalists. A direct response to an acutely felt need in the
Gambian media, where at the time, there was no structured basic journalism education in The
Gambia, the Union in its application of this project felt it was high time we took a decisive step
to ameliorate the poor situation of the media in The Gambia. Only a few of the working
journalists have an educational background in the profession. Those few have been educated
abroad. Besides, there is no capacity and set up for mid-career and further training of working
journalists in The Gambia. This means that most of the working journalists are without formal
education in journalism and without professional training as well. Newcomers to the media have
no possibilities of acquiring basic skills in journalism as well as being updated on international
developments in professional methods, technology, the role of the media etc.
The Course was announced in the summer of 2009 and applicants invited. We received 48
applications. All applicants were invited for written tests as well as an oral interview; only 20
candidates made the grade and were enrolled for the course that started in December 2009.
The entire course (Professional Reporter) is divided into four semesters of 4-6 months each.
Each semester the trainees take courses in core journalism skills, pedagogy and general
knowledge. The multi-disciplinary approach is meant to enrich and deepen the
trainees’ understanding of the issues that shape and influence the practice of journalism. During
the first semester, participants took cross-cutting courses in public administration and good
governance as well as public sanitation – waste management in The Gambia. In this area, there
was excellent collaboration between the GPU, the National Environment Agency, the Banjul
City Council and the Kanifing Municipal Council. In the second semester, the GPU worked with
CIAM – Centre for Innovation against Malaria – to provide lectures on the malaria epidemic in
The Gambia. The trainees researched and wrote articles on various aspects of the disease. Like
the first and second semesters, the GPU collaborated with ActionAid International The Gambia
to provide lectures on agriculture and poverty in The Gambia. The trainees are still doing their
research on the link between agriculture and poverty in The Gambia.
Four of the trainees have been officially expelled from the course due to poor academic
performance or indiscipline or both.
Each trainee is expected to, at the at the end of the two years be able to teach as well as practise
journalism. So that when the GPU School of Journalism is up and running, the bests of the
trainees can serve as assistant tutors under the guidance of seasoned trainers. The first TOT
session ended on 16th June 2011. During this session, a total of 24 journalists in the provinces
were trained in basic journalism skills by the trainees of the Professional Reporter course guided
by a course consultant Mr George Christensen who was recruited by the International Centre for
Journalists (ICFJ). The TOT course was divided into two batches of 12 participants each. Each
batch underwent the training for four days. The next session of the TOT course is December
2011. But in between, there will be one or two on-site visits to assess the performance of the
beneficiaries. The rationale is to have a pool of well-trained reporters across the country who can
work as stringers for the media houses based in the Kombos.
 Training of GPU Executive and Staff
Under the project, the GPU Executive and staff of the secretariat are also to undergo four
training sessions on management, entrepreneurship, resource mobilization, advocacy and
lobbying. So far, two sessions have been held. The first session was on management, while the
second session was on strategic planning during which the 2011-2013 Strategic Plan was
formulated. A local consultant is hired for this component of the project.
The project fund of DKK 998, 300 is divided almost evenly between the administration of the
project in both Denmark and The Gambia. Tickets for the Danish trainers, their accommodation,
their per diems, their malaria vaccination and their insurance, project monitoring, project
evaluation, auditing in Denmark and administration take up DKK 302, 159 (approximately
1,208,636 Dalasis) By contrast, the investment in the computer laboratory and other accessories,
awards ceremony, stipend for trainees, training sessions for GPU executives, publications of
articles, salaries for local staff, auditing in The Gambia and telecommunications cover DKK 696,
141(2,784,564 Dalasi)
In his report published in the Games Newsletter February 2010, the Danish Project manager Mr.
Jorgen Ringgard has this to say: “Along the way it has been a challenge to fit the activity costs to
the budget we have. Alota has had a hard job to make ends meet by adjusting, cutting,
negotiating cheap services etc. We have now a revised budget, just approved by Danida, which
makes it possible to maintain the objectives and still keep a robust reserve.”
 Institutional Capacity Building
As part of institutional capacity building inputs earmarked for this project, technical inputs for
the Union include a fully equipped training lab with:
1. 15 flat screen Computers
2. Flat Screen TV
3. Printer
4. Overhead Projector
5. DVD Player
6. Wifi (monthly internet connection)
 No Cost Extension, Games GPU Partnership
Following our election in March 2008, realising that there were un-used funds in the
GPU/GAMES partnership activity and that the project cycle was to end in October 2008, we
approached GAMES, our implementing partner to consult DANIDA on the possibility of a five
month extension of the project cycle to March 2009. This was approved and the new leadership
took this opportunity to put in place mechanisms allowing a more targeted capacity building of
an effective organisation for:
1. Management, administration and accounting
2. Project development planning and implementation
3. Income generation
4. Networking for media development with national and international partners.
An additional capacity building mission from Games focusing on strategies, plan of actions,
management and project development, and we jointly worked on the first ever GPU Stratic Plan
2009-2011. The Secretary General of including consultants from the neighbouring Senegalese
SYMPICS (Syndicats des Médias et des Professionnels de l’Information et de la Communication
du Sénégal) also came on board as a consultant to train the new executive on Collective
Bargaining Techniques.
Training of GRTS Radio Staff
The training, proposed to have been held on 2nd to 12th November 2008, was to be supported by
the International Media Support and two GAMES volunteers. For the IMS to release the
allocated funds and to enable the trainers plan their sessions, the GRTS was required to, through
its director general or an appointee, responsible for training, fundamentally approve of the
project and its time frame (November 2nd to 12th 2008) by signing the attached contract with
his/her signature by September 15th 2008. Unfortunately despite meetings between the
Department of State for Information, Communication and Technology, GAMES and GPU, the
required approval was not received and the project did not materialize.
The Union and the Gambian media lost out on much needed funds and inputs to strengthen the
capacity of our public media.
Partnership for Capacity Building and Media Freedom in The Gambia
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with the GPU and the Foundation
for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE) launched, in November 2010 a 20-month
programme to equip media workers in The Gambia with human and material resources to enable
the Union in particular and Gambian journalists generally respond with greater effectiveness to
repressive and punitive media laws.
The main objectives are to enhance the skills of journalists and editors, increase communication
among all Gambian media professionals, strengthen the GPU and sub associations that represent
journalists and work to protect their rights; advance the cause of good governance and basic
freedoms, build skills among journalists and to support the organizations in their efforts to build
a stronger media community.
It involves four components – 1) management assistance to organizations that work to support
journalists; 2) legal assistance to the associations to refine their strategies to respond to punitive
laws; 3) training for young journalists and bloggers, and skills-building for mid-career
professionals; and 4) improved communication among journalists to strengthen professional
networks.
The program seeks to meld training in journalistic skills, ethics and management with the array
of possibilities offered to media through the use of digital tools. Provision for legal support,
protection for journalists is also earmarked under the project. The singular goal of these
combined efforts is to bolster media reform in The Gambia through capacity-building support for
media associations and outreach and training on media skills and freedoms.
The project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and
Labor was partly negotiated by Mr Alagi Yerro Jallow, of the now shut down Independent
newspaper, based in the United States.
Due to some concerns of the GPU in particular the fact that we were not involved in the
recruitment process etc, the negotiation was a long process. The project took off in November
2010 with Mr Alieu Sagnia as country director. The Gambia Press Union is the major partner,
while the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE) is an associate
partner. The funds of the project are independently handled by its coordinator and the fund
providers. Under this project, the GPU receives a sub grant of 10,800 US Dollars. This amount
is payable in quarterly installments is paid to assist with office operating costs such as rent,
utilities and GPU staff support to the project. Out of the 5400 US Dollars received so far, 3895
US Dollars has been spent on rent, extending the tenancy of the GPU Secretariat until September
2012.
Mr. Amadou Taal, consultant for the project has recently completed a survey on media houses,
preparatory to the management workshop that will be conducted for media chiefs by an ICFJ
consultant.
UNDEF Project (Participation, Voice and Human Rights)
The GPU applied and benefitted from a UNDP/AAITG/ACDHRS implemented UNDEF
programme to raise the Capacity of mass Media in promoting human rights and good
governance.
Under this programme, capacity assessment exercises focusing on the management capacity,
operational/ organizational capacity, adaptive capacity, advocacy capacity as well as (financial)
reporting capacity was undertaken. Specific training programmes, manuals and procedures were
drawn out including a Human Resources and Financial Management Manual were produced and
are now used by the Union Secretariat.
Two training sessions, one on management (Union executive and staff ) at the MDI and the other
on legal and human rights issues will be carried out by the Real Time Consulting recruited by
implementing partner African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS).
 Resources Mobilization
Between May 25th and June 2nd 2009, as a beneficiary of the UNDEF project implemented by
Action Aid, The Gambia, the executive and staff of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) benefitted
from a training course on Resources Mobilization.
At the end of this activity, undertaken by Afri Consult (recruited by ActionAid) the Union
executive and staff:
 Formulated and developed a fundraising strategy and plan
 Acquired skills in project proposal writing
 Identified mechanisms to strengthen relationships with partners/donors
 Identified and targeted diverse sources of funding
The GPU Fund Raising Strategy was validated on December 2 2009 at a workshop which
brought together the Union leadership, staff, members, advisors and partners.
The project was aligned with the Governance and Human Rights component of the 2007-2011
UNDAF and UNDP’s country programme core areas of focus.
Legal training
The rife self-censorship due to a genuine misunderstanding and or lack of understanding of
media related laws, even within private media entities has perpetuated a poor representation of
salient issues affecting Gambians. The critical state and threatening legal circumstances which
the Gambian media continues to find itself requires sustainable new ways and channels of
intervention that will a) not require a high level of cooperation with Gambian authorities and b)
effectively influence media practitioners understanding of the laws governing the environment
within which they operate, and the context in which national media and communications related
laws and policies relating to the media and other issues of concern to the media - freedom of
expression, human rights, good governance - exist and the influence that the GPU and other
concerted actions can have upon them.
The prosecution of journalists is a major factor affecting freedom of expression, recent cases
where journalists have found themselves in conflict with the law include the Lamin Fatty
‘Publication of False Material” trial, the Sedition charges against Fatou Jaw Manneh and the
trial of Seditious Intention of Today Editor, AbdulHamid Adiamoh, at the time pushed the Union
executive into organizing ad-hoc legal training sessions
Partly due to these, the Union on an ad-hoc basis in 2008/2010 organized training
sessions/seminar to enlighten our executive, publishers, editors and general membership on the
basics of the laws affecting them in the course of their work, how to take advantage of and find
ways of better navigating around these to avoid becoming victims of the law.
Online Security
In November 2009, the Union conducted a one week training activity for its executive, staff and
members on online security. Costing US$6,100, the activity was financed by the US Embassy.


THE GAMPRINT PROJECT
As part of its engagement with Media Owners following a consultative exercise with our
members and a bid to negotiate for better salaries and working conditions, the Union was
astounded by the daunting challenges and difficulties faced by the Newspapers in accessing and
affording purchase of printing materials in particular newsprints, plates and inks, through the
importation, storage and distribution of newsprints to private print media houses.
With other partners, we encouraged (following our first strategy retreat) media owners to
organize and form the Gambia Editor’s Forum, establishment of a modern printing press facility
to print all private newspapers and magazines and provision of technical support. It will also
build and strengthen the professionalism of media practitioners, mainstream human rights
advocacy of gender issues in their operations, as well as enhance the institutional capacity of the
Media Houses in general. The aim of the project is to increase Economic Viability and enhance
the Institutional Capacity of the Media in The Gambia, improve the operating environment of
journalists and media workers; create vibrant media that would better and effectively respond to
the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people; ensure effective and competitive participation
of the private press on social, governance and development issues.
In March of 2009, the Union had approached the US Embassy, British High Commission and the
IMS for support of a grant of US$ 19,600 of its Gamprint Project with the main rationale being
that participating media houses will invest the accrued savings on improving the working
conditions, environment of journalists and pay higher wages.
Other objectives were to:
 To reduce the price of newsprints substantially (up to 38%) in order to ascertain the
economic viability of media houses thus strengthening them in the process.
 To ensure that print media houses publish their newspapers regularly and on time.
 To improve newspaper sales, increase production and circulation figures.
 To strengthen the Editors’ Forum and the bond between the media houses by bringing
them together for a common purpose.
 To strengthen the position of the GPU within the media fraternity.
Under the United States Democracy and Human Rights Fund, The Gambia Press Union a grant
of 19, 600 US Dollars was approved by the US Embassy in August of 2009 of which US$ 14,105
was earmarked for Gamprint.
Implementing GAMPRINT has been a challenge for the Union. Sam Sarr of Foroyaa newspaper
was instrumental in sourcing for suppliers in Indonesia, China, Dubai, India, Cameroon, Canada,
and Cyprus without success. Most of the suppliers insisted on having a certain percentage paid to
them before freighting the consignment down to The Gambia. The Union insisted on letter of
credit, but they refused. This back and forth movement took over ten months. Finally, the Union
contacted a Senegalese National, Ale Lam who agreed to supply 52 grams newsprint (800 reams)
to the Union at D450 per ream. With the extra costs of customs and transportation, the Union
marked up the selling price to D550, as against the current market price of D675. The Union
spent D33,520 on Customs and D15, 000 on transport.
The Union would like to thank Foroyaa, The Standard and Today newspapers for patronizing the
GAMPRINT Project. Only 90 reams are left from the first consignment. The first set of the
second consignment arrived on the night of Sunday, June 19 2011. Evidently, the project has got
off to a good start and all indications are that if we continue the good management of it, we will
in the long term achieve our goal of engaging the media houses for the improved livelihoods of
our members.
Printing Press
The GPU last month received a printing press from the US Embassy in Banjul. Recently
installed at the premises of the Standard Newspaper, the Union due to its earlier experiences has
decided to run and manage the printing press. A fully fledged printing staff including operations
manager, printers, lithographers, compilers will be recruited in order to commence work as early
as beginning of July 2011.
Prior to this, the GPU Printing machine which was also donated by the embassy in August of
2006, was initially run by the Point Newspaper and later moved to Today Newspaper due to a
lack of accountability and failure to meet with contractual arrangements on the part of the two
media houses.
REVENUE:
Two main sources of revenue for the Union are membership subscription and the printing press.
At D10 per month with a membership of 200, the annual revenue from membership subscription
is 24,000 Dalasi. The annual payment for the printing press is 100,000 Dalasi. So the total annual
revenue of the Union is 124, 000.


STATE OF THE MEDIA
The GPU Six:
June/Sep 2009 - Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, GPU Vice President; Bai Emil Touray, Secretary General;
Pa Modou Faal, Treasurer; Sam Sarr, editor, Foroyaa Newspaper; Pap Saine and Ebrima
Sawaneh Publisher and Editor were charged with "seditious publication", and two additional two
charges of conspiracy to Commit Criminal Defamation and Criminal Defamation. They were
detained incommunicado, denied bail on two occasions later sentenced to two years
imprisonment with a fine and later pardoned in September 2009.
These events followed the Union’s response to President Jammeh’s televised (GRTS), June 8
comments on the murder of/investigations into the death of former Union chairman Deyda
Hydara. A seventh journalist, Abubacarr Saidy Khan (Foroyaaa) was also initially detained,
charged and later acquitted.
Police also arrested Abba Gibba, news editor on The Point and Halifa Sallah, managing editor of
Foroyaa and Augustine Kanja of the Point newspaper in events related to this case. They were
later released without charge.
Funds were raised to assist the families of the six sentenced journalists with monies totaling
GMD 805231.50 (US$23,990) distributed evenly amongst all six journalists upon their release.
Prior to their release, some funds raised earlier had enabled the Union to contribute to giving the
families’ of the beleaguered families some support for costs of school re-opening and the Koriteh
feast.
Other funds raised for this included the legal fees which totaled US$15,000. This bill was fully
financed by the Media Legal Defense Initiative.
A further US$1000 was raised and given to Abubacarr Saidy Khan.
The Union held a series of actions including a joint press conferences in Senegal, Accra, Abuja,
London, Brussels, New York were held with SYNPICS, the IFJ Africa Office, the Senegalese
Broadcasters Association, the Senegalese Committee to Protect Journalists, TAEF, MFWA, FAJ,
NUJ (UK), IFJ, Amnesty UK and the TUC-UK, protest letters, picketing outside Gambian High
Commissions demanding for the release of the journalists was coordinated by the GPU.


Pap Saine
February 2009, Pap Saine, Publisher of The Point Newspaper was called for questioning by the
officers of the Serious Crime Unit re: his nationality and other stories related to the recalling of 3
Gambians working in the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
During the investigations, Police had asked him to produce his birth certificate, his father’s
passport and title deeds. During this period, Pap who has severe health conditions had also seen
some deterioration in his condition which only worsened later that year when he was one of the 6
journalists, arrested and detained. His legal fees on this case cost US$6000 and GPU approached
partners to help offset these. Mr. Saine, later that year also went on treatment to the UK with
ample support from partners of the GPU such as Reuters.
Abdul Hamid Adiamoh
On June 16 2009, Abdul Hamid Adiamoh, managing editor of Today newspaper was convicted
and fined by Magistrate Sainabou Wadda- Ceesay of the Kanifing Magistrate court to pay the
sum of D50, 000 or in default serve 6 months imprison.
This development follows his plea of guilty to charges of false publication and broadcasting
levied against him by the state.
Mr Adiamoh was arrested on 10 June 2009 after his paper published that Secretaries of State for
Justice, and the Local Government and Land- Mrs and Mr Marry Saine Firdaus and Mr Ismaila
Sambou were sacked from their position.
Following the publication the police detained Mr Adiamoh, charged him and taken to court
yesterday and convicted today. He was given yesterday a court bail of D10, 000
In her ruling, Magistrate Wadda- Ceesay acknowledged the efforts of Mr Adiamoh to medicine
the situation after realising his errors, but cautioned journalists to always verify their stories
before publishing them.
Mr Adiamoh was supported by the GPU leadership to pay the fines on the spot. He temporaly
closed Today newspaper
Fatou Jaw Manneh
Fatou J. Manneh a US based Gambian journalist was arrested by National Intelligence Agency
(NIA) officers on her arrival from the USA at the international airport in the capital Banjul on 28
March 2007. She was detained for a week, during which time she was denied access to a lawyer
or her family. On 4 April 2007 Manneh was charged on three counts of sedition under Gambia's
criminal code: "intention to commit sedition", "publication of seditious words" and "publication
of false news intended to cause public fear and alarm to the Gambian public". Manneh pleaded
not guilty and was released on bail. A fourth charge, "uttering seditious words", was added on 20
June 2007. The basis for the charges was articles by Manneh critical of the Gambian President,
Yahya Jammeh.
On 18 August 2008, Fatou Jaw Manneh, was given a four year prison sentence for ‘sedition';
fined and released for writing articles critical of the President.
Fatou avoided imprisonment as the GPU paid the hefty fine of GMD 250,000. Family members
and an anonymous donor also contributed.
Exiled Journalists
The exodus of Gambian journalists moving out of the country due to the unfavorable
environment continues to increase yearly. Between 2008 and 2010, those that the Union can
directly verify that their exile is linked to their work include Buya Jammeh, Kemo Cham, Abba
Gibba, Momodou Justice Darboe, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Modou Nyang and Ndey Tapha Sosseh.
Buya Jammeh, Kemo Cham and Momodu Justice Darboe have all received financial support
from the IMS, IFJ, International Pen and CPJ.


DEYDA HYDARA
The stalling into the investigations of the murder of Deyda Hydara on December 16, 2004 still
continue to be a major concern for the Union. We continue our call on the Gambian authorities
to ensure that no stone is unturned in these investigations and welcome the recenet
announcement of the UK, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that the Gambia
Government have technically accepted their offer of independent expertise and investigations.
The FCO, who has been engaged by the Campaign for Human Rights in The Gambia (CHRG)
Scotland whose coordinator Alieu Badara Ceesay is a GPU member and the Gambia Press Union
leadership.
The Union in 2008/2009 and 2010 celebrated every year the anniversary of the murder of Deyda
Hydara by organizing symposia and issuing statements.
CHIEF EBRIMA MANNEH
The disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, the Gambia Governments refusal to implement the
decisions of the ECOWAS Court pertaining to his disappearance by refusing to release and
compensate him US$200,000 is a worrying phenomenon.
Chief Manneh on the day of his disappearance 6 July 2006 was picked up by Plain Clothes
security personnel from his Place of work the Daily Observer. The Union, through GPU USA
has since 2008 maintained financial, household support for the Manneh family as chief was said
to have been, at the time, the only working member and therefore breadwinner of his extended
family. Through the CHRG, GPU engagement with the FCO, his case has also been prominently
highlighted.
He, like Deyda, was honoured by The African Editors Forum in October 2010 with the “‘Hero of
African Journalism Award’. Though bittersweet, the Gambia Press Union joined the two families
in expressing delight that two of our two heroes were privileged to be recognized among five
journalists (the late Norbert Zongo, Burkina Faso; Jean Leonard Rugambage, Rwanda; And, Pius
Njawe, Cameroon) honored in all of the region.
Senator Richard Durbin of the US, also brought the issue of the continued detention of Chief
Ebrima Manneh and unsolved murder off Deyda Hydara to the attention of the US Senate in July
2008 asking the Senate to focus its attention on a tragic story from the small “West African
nation of The Gambia.”He told the Senate that he agrees with Amnesty International’s
consideration of Chief Ebrima Manneh as a prisoner of conscience and has called for his
immediate release.
These arrests, detentions and charges make it extremely difficult for private medis to operate
freely in The Gambia and to maintain favourable working relationships with the government in
spite of all efforts to do so.


NETWORKING/PARTNERSHIP BUILDING
Courtesy Calls on State Institutions/Gambia Gov’t Officials
Between March and September of 2008, the union initiated contacts with the State through the
department of state communication, information and technology, national assembly and national
Security Council. The union leadership expressed its willingness to work with the State
institutions to improve the media and government relations. In these discussions, the union also
took the opportunity to remind the State representatives of their responsibilities concerning the
disappearance of Chief Ibrima Manneh and the investigations into the death of Deyda Hydara.
Federation of African Journalists
GPU attended the founding congress of the federation of African Journalists in Nairobi and was
represented by the GPU president. I am glad to report to this congress, the GPU president was
not only an elected officer of FAJ as treasurer but also the candidate that got the highest number
of vote among 9 candidates.
Again FAJ organized its constitutional congress in Harare in March 2010. It was not possible for
GPU to participate due to other engagements but colleagues in the continent reaffirmed their
confidence in the GPU leadership and thus reelected me in absentia as treasurer.
26th IFJ World Congress
GPU participated in the 26th World Congress of the IFJ in Cadiz, southern Spain. The congress
was a critical one for the future of the IFJ. In his Presidential Opening Address, the IFJ President,
Jim Boumelha, singled out the outstanding achievements and struggle of the GPU leadership and
he saluted our courage and dedication to give a voice to Gambian journalists.
All Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (AHRD-Net)
April 20-23 2009, upon identification of the regional journalists Group, I, alongside journalists
from the East, Central, Southern, North Africa regions represented the FAJ at the Johannesburg
+10 Conference All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference held in Kampala, Uganda. The
meeting brought together 85 human rights defenders from 45 African Countries and 33 partners
from across the world.
At this meeting, I was elected into the steering committee of the All Africa Human Rights
Defenders Network (AHRD-Net), representing the journalists’ group. AHRD-Net is the
coordinating unit of the existing and functioning African human rights defenders networks. Its
secretariat is hosted by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRDNet)
in Kampala.
Since then, the GPU in consultation with FAJ has on at least two occasions identified
investigative reporter Fabakary Ceesay to participate in meetings of the West Africa Chapter of
the network.
WAJA
As president of the GPU and second vice president of WAJA, I stepped down from the WAJA
Executive board in March of 2009 following an appointment to serve as the Association’s Print
Press Expert in its Project in Bamako, Mali.
WAJA insisted that the GPU stay on board as an executive member, and thus GPU Secretary
General, Bai Emil Touray, replaced me in the WAJA Executive.
In April 2010, WAJA held its Congress in Dakar and despite the fact the fact that the GPU
presented its Secretary General as a candidate, he could not obtain the required votes to hold
unto the position.
Amnesty International
In September 2008, I participated in an Amnesty International campaign consultative meeting
(Dakar) which served as follow up training on campaign and advocacy training held in The
Gambia in 2007 for media and human rights defenders.
Amnesty has been a staunch defender of Gambian journalists, recognizing Chief Ebrima Manneh
as a prisoner of conscience and dedicating a large part of its report on The Gambia 2009 on the
state of the media in The Gambia, highlighting in particular the case of the unsolved murder of
Deyda Hydara.
Amnesty also supported the GPU to table a written report for the Gambia Universal Peer Review
Mechanism (February 2009) and participate in the review in Geneva.


GPU USA
Though relations with the parent body have not yet been formalised, Gambian diaspora journalist
groups, in particular the GPU USA has been very supportive and vocal on issues concerning
journalists on the ground.
MLDI
The Media Legal Defence Initiative has also been a key partner of the Gambia Press Union,
giving financial support and legal aid when called upon. Representing GPU, I was part of the
launch team of MLDI in New York in January 2009. This occasion also availed me the
opportunity to meet and discuss strategies with Gambian journalists living in New York.
CPJ/MFWA/ International Pen/OSJI/RSF/FAMEDEV/ Coalition for Human Rights The
Gambia
Following the arrest, subsequent trial, sentence, imprisonment and later pardon of the GPU 6,
between June and September 2009, the Union in collaboration with the Committee to Protect
Journalists, Media Foundation for West Africa, International Pen, Open Society Justice Initiative
(West Africa Bureau), FAMEDEV (Inter Africa Network for Women, Media ,Gender and
Development) and some of the partners mentioned above brainstormed and worked together on
potential ways forward which included media advocacy, lobbying regional and international
groups such as the ECOWAS, AU, ACHPR, UN, EU and foreign governments with missions in
The Gambia.
Congress
The GPU was to hold this Congress in March of 2011, due to the nature of the activity we
wanted to hold and the financial resources involved, we had to shift the dates, upon consultation
with members to June of this year.
We received support totaling Euro 4000 from the IFJ Africa Office for this event.
It is interesting to note that this year, as in the Congress of 2008, there was a keen demonstration
in the union’s activities in the months leading up to Congress. We do hope, that like the years
gone by, this interest will not wane after the Congress but that the zeal and the willingness on the
part of the membership will continue and manifest itself in you taking ownership of the union. It
is your responsibility as GPU members to hold the incoming executive to account but to also
work hand in glove with them to be able successfully deliver on the tasks that you assign them
and goals of the Union.


APPRECIATION
As indicated in my opening remarks, service without checks and balances is of no use to you the
leader and those you lead, therefore I am proud that the Gambia Press Union over the years has
entrenched internal democracy, transparency in its dealings and stock taking as an integral part
of the nature and functioning of our great Institution. I’m also proud that in every aspect of
Union management, for every pillar of the raison d’etre of our Union, this executive has raised
the bar to such an extent that in every part of the world, in every home in The Gambia, the GPU
is a common name and one that is synonymous to sacrifice, hard work and belief on our cause.
Of course there have been and there will always be the detractors, but as my policy has been and
its one that I tried to push within this executive, no amount of distraction will push us into losing
our focus, our resolve to deliver on the mandate that we accepted and sought you to trust us
with. Since we came in as GPU leaders in March 2008, our main priority was to be make
decisions, as an entity and to consult each other at all times in a very transparent, honest manner
and at all times putting the interests of our membership first.
I would be unfair to my team, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Modou Nyang, Bai Emil Touray, Lamin Njie,
Madi Njie, Pa Modu Faal, Buya Jammeh and Amie Sanneh if I do not single them out for their
steadfastness and commitment to duty. It has been hard, long and tumultuous but we have
arrived, and we have made a difference, I congratulate you all. The same goes to our dedicated
staff, executive director Aloa Ahmed Alota, Fatma Tambedou, Accountant, Nellie Grant,
Librarian/Secretary, Isatou Njie, cleaner. Our ICFJ partners Alieu Sagnia and Chilel… who also
share our office space with us.
Unreserved thanks must be for GPU advisors Sam Sarr, Demba Jawo, Swaebou Conateh, Cherno
Jallow, Amie Joof and George Christensen. Their experience, expertise and visionary outlook
has at many times, dampened the fiery spirit with which this young executive would normally
jump on issues and probably have acted differently. I appreciate the genuineness demonstrated
and support given. Ousman Sillah, Abdoulie John and Fabakary Ceesay are ordinary members
who have gone over and beyond the call of duty to represent, to speak for and to defend the
interests of this Union. Thank you for the support.
Our partners and friends we have made over the years have played an integral part to every
success that we have registered and every milestone gained, I thank our local partners in
particular the US Embassy, British High Commission, UNDP (UNDEF Project team), ActionAid
The Gambia, UNESCO/NATCOM, Unique Solutions, FLARE,
Our international and regional partners have ensured that our agenda, our voice is being heard
and that will continue to be heard, we therefore thank the IFJ, FAJ, WAJA, SYNPICS, Amnesty
International, GAMES (Danida), Article 19, CPJ, International Pen, OSIWA, OSJI, Reuters,
RSF

GOODWILL MESSAGE TO GPU


The National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists – NUJ and President, West African Journalists Association-WAJA, MUHAMMMAD GARBA, extends the goodwill of both WAJA and NUJ to the Gambia Press Union as it convenes the Congress of its union on Sunday, June 26, 2011. GARBA notes with satisfaction the very dynamic role played by the union in recent years in encouraging the freedom of the press and in promoting democracy.

Despite  having suffered a number of setbacks severally, with the obvious but unsuccessful attempts by government to control the media, GARBA condemns the increased harassment of journalists in the Gambia, acts which he says are causing frustration among media  professionals in the country . He however commends the resilience of GPU leadership and members, their commitment to freedom of expression and the rule of law.

The President of NUJ/WAJA  is worried that the Government of the Gambia had increasingly continued  filing legal cases against media professionals who especially report on allegations of corruption, while security operatives have been used to block access for reporters in several areas and to frighten many journalists into self exile, a development he states is counterproductive. He thus urges the Government of the Gambia to avail itself of the opportunity of the GPU Congress to heal such wounds.

MUHAMMAD GARBA, while expressing concern about the continuation of the independence of the press across the sub region, argues that poor professional standards and ethical violations continue to make the press vulnerable to government attacks. He  appeals to all Journalists to strive at all times to adhere strictly to the code of ethics of the profession, as a way of reducing the incidences of  acts of impunity against the media.

GARBA , while wishing the GPU a successful Congress, also appeals to delegates to elect credible leaders who will work assiduously with other sister Unions and Associations in the sub region in uplifting the standard of the practice of journalism.

SHU’AIBU USMAN LEMAN National Secretary

International Federation of Journalists

From the President

 

Ndey Tapha Sosseh

President

Gambian Press Union

 

24th June 2011

 

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be able to congratulate you on your triennial congress today on behalf of the IFJ and its unions worldwide. This should be indeed a tremendous commemoration of journalism but also a wonderful tribute to what your union and its leadership have achieved.

The IFJ and its affiliates are indeed very proud of your resilience and determination to confront many of the tough challenges you have been facing in the last few years. You had to face up to colleagues being harassed, beaten up, kidnapped and imprisoned. At times you had to defend the very existence of your union. Most of the time, you had to learn to navigate through choppy political waters, lobby and stand up for the interest of your members. In the end, despite scary moments, you came out of it with flying colours. 

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that, over the years, you have acted as one of the most combative of our unions, always putting first the interests of journalists and journalism. This is not just a personal judgment but a view shared by many of our unions, who always admired the way you fought for just causes and your confidence and belief in your strength and your solidarity.

I must also congratulate you for your spirited fortitude and tremendous maturity in keeping your unity intact at all cost. This is something so rare today in Africa. Confronting so many obstacles, I am fully aware that keeping united can be crucial in building the GPU.

 

The whole global family of journalists has been fully aware of and given its support to your struggle. We are all full of admiration for the grit and tenacity of your leadership during the darkest hours in the face of brutal oppression and jail conditions, and the courage and drive of your president in succeeding in putting the ordeal of Gambian journalists as a top priority for our unions, the human rights community worldwide and even governments.

This is a historical record that does great credit to Ndey and to your union.  I never had any doubt that your union has always been at the centre of the fight for social justice and journalists’ rights in Gambia. You have shown an indomitable fighting trade union spirit, which is a real model for many of our unions.

Finally I am well aware that on this day you will be assessing your journey with all its strength and weaknesses and I hope you will also be full of optimism and sense of achievement. I wish I could be with you for this historic celebration. My message to you is to continue the fight. These are difficult times for all of us, when the need for aware, independent and ethical journalism is greater than it has ever been. I am confident that Gambian journalists are in good hands as along as the GPU continues to thrive and to develop.

In solidarity

 

JIM BOUMELHA
President

International Federation of Journalists

OPENING CEREMONY OF THE TRIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE GAMBIA PRESS UNION

OPENING CEREMONY OF THE TRIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE

GAMBIA PRESS UNION

WELCOME REMARKS BY GPU PRESIDENT, NDEY TAPHA SOSSEH

GTMI HALL, KANIFING

24-26 JUNE 2011

Colleagues and friends of the media, we are once again gathered here at the GTMI Hall to discuss and take stock and reflect on the activities, achievements, successes and failures of the Gambia Press Union, the current leadership.  The detailed agenda that had been circulated indicates to you all the seriousness of the deliberations and the need to add valuable input into the various texts proposed to strengthen the Union.

Before going further, I’d once again like to sincerely apologise that I am unable to be amongst you in person to partake in an event which I daresay is the most important, memorable and decisive event since my executive has taken over the mantle of leadership of the GPU.  Not only do I acutely feel my absence this weekend, but the fact that we cannot be together to take stock together, for the cause, the path, that we together set out on, three years ago on March 22, 2008.

The theme of this year’s Congress, STRENGTHENING THE GPU: A Detailed analysis of the past, current situation, ACTIONS TO confront future challenges was not chosen by accident but instead is a deep reflection of this executive on mapping out the way forward and to actually put in place a blueprint that enables the incoming executive to act from the onset in a precise, targeted and result-oriented manner, thereby enabling the Union and its various structures to provide, better, more meaningful support to its members, the Gambian media fraternity, in an approach that is needs based.

The efforts of the Executive, secretariat to enable us share thought provoking themes on the way forward notwithstanding, us Gambian journalists, members and non-members of the Union here present, media chiefs and media institutions should take advantage of this first opportunity – a three day forum – geared towards dissecting each and every possibility of taking our Union, the Gambian media fraternity to higher heights.  It is important that we leave here, armed with visionary documents, strategies with input from you that’ll enable the leadership and secretariat of the Union act responsively in providing services for you.  You will all agree with me, that since it was formed in 1978, this is the first time that a Union Congress has been preceded by a two day comprehensive reflection of activities, engagements and deliberations on the future of the Union.   This is no accident; it is instead a deliberate attempt, on the part of the executive to allow you all to take stock of the activities, events, achievements and failures of this executive with a view to building a Union that is stronger, more effective and much more responsive to your needs.

Again, looking at the agenda, you will notice that a lot of emphasis has been made on the historical element of the GPU, this in our view, enables you all to not only better appreciate the strides that have been made in the past three years but to also design our future, armed with a better and fuller understanding of the raison d’etre of and the role of the Union.  The focus on the future is an opportune moment for us, as a family to look at our constitution, strategies and modernize them in a responsible, responsive manner.

The past three years has been no easy ride, for this executive, like the last two leaderships before ours, we have had to deal with our mandate, with a lesser number from Congress, nine of us were elected, as at February 2010, four including myself, the president, the two vice presidents and co-opted members have found ourselves unable to return and to serve from the base.  I am pleased to however note that with new technologies and a deep commitment to delivering our mandate, the impact and abilities of the executive to function and supervise the overall direction of the Secretariat has not waned.  The high spirit and mood with which we welcomed our election has at all times, even when during the bleakest moment for this leadership –June/September 2009 – during the arrest, detention, trial and imprisonment of three members of our executive, two senior advisors and a member of the Union did we waver in our commitment to serve and to provide leadership to you.  I salute today, Bai Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Pa Momodou Faal, Sam Sarr, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh for their courage, humility and strength of character in the face of adversity.  If anything, this executive stood taller and remained more convinced that we were on the right side of history by providing sterling leadership at a time that we could have faltered.

Members, Colleagues, friends, this weekend should also avail us the opportunity to reflect on and find ways to better address the needs of the families of our departed colleagues, our disappeared colleagues.  We must also address the issue of the high rate of brain drain within our profession due to mass outward movement of our colleagues who for fear of persecution and attacks to their person for being nothing else but a journalist.

Once again, I call on you all to rise up for a minute of silence in honour of Sports Journalist Lamin A. Darboe, our colleague who lost his life in a ferry accident last November.  Deyda Hydara, a symbol of the cause the Union stands for.  Our thoughts should also be extended to Chief Ebrima Manneh.

I welcome you all and wish you successful discussions. 

A Brief History of The Gambia Press Union (GPU)

By Demba Ali Jawo

(Former President of the GPU)

The Gambia Press Union was founded in 1978 by a group of journalists in the private media, replacing the moribund Gambia Journalists Association. It became the sole organization representing Gambian journalists and among its objectives was to promote media freedom, professionalism and ethics.

Among its founding members were the late William Dixon-Colley, the late Deyda Hydara, and the late M. B. Jones. The only surviving member of that pioneering group is Pap Saine.

 

The GPU has had a chequered history. While its founder members were quite determined to attract as many journalists as possible, it was virtually impossible to attract journalists in the government media, which was then Radio Gambia and the Gambia News Bulletin; because not only did they not have the courage to become members, but the Union was seen in some official quarters as being synonymous with the opposition, apparently because most of its original members were also newspaper owners/publishers who often criticized the government.

Therefore, for quite a long time, the GPU continued to operate with a very small membership without even a secretariat of its own. At the beginning, meetings were held at the offices of The Nation newspaper on Boxbar Road in Banjul.

However, as the membership increased, meetings were held at the BCC office in Banjul until in 1997 when, with the help of the American Embassy in Banjul, the GPU got its first secretariat on Atlantic Boulevard. It was of course thanks to efforts by the late Deyda Hydara who was then the president.

While the GPU was operating with very meager resources, due to the determination of its small corps of dedicated members, the Union, through the help of donors, undertook many training programmes, with the sole objective of upgrading the professionalism of Gambian journalists.

Though the atmosphere during the First Republic was no doubt more media-friendly, the GPU had a few open confrontations with the former PPP regime. One such confrontation was when the government attempted to set up a media regulatory body; the National Press Council. While the bill was passed by the House of Representatives and even assented to by President Jawara, the GPU stood its ground by insisting on not registering with such a council because of its draconian nature. It was indeed quite reminiscent of the famous National Media Commission which was created by the Jammeh administration in 1994 and which the GPU again fought against and won.

Indeed, the GPU has come a very long way to what it is today, with a well equipped secretariat and a fairly sizeable membership.

In terms of leadership, M.B. Jones was succeeded by Deyda Hydara who stood down for Demba Jawo. After serving a two-term presidency, Mr Jawo handed over to Mr Madi M.K. Ceesay who stepped down in 2008 for Ms Ndey Tapha Sosseh, the first female president of the Union.

A LEGAL AND REGULATORY PERSPECTIVE: BETTER PROTECTION FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN THE AGE DIGITAL COMMUNICATION

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake’. President Barack Obama

As a country, we are going through some interesting times; together we are searching for inspiration, seeking guidance and yearning for leadership not in public sector of government but in the open spaces where individual is sovereign, the open spaces where civil society is transformed to an effective agent of change.

 Unfortunately, our country has not yet formed the habit of undergoing complex and meaningful examination of its foundations, its values and its institutions. For this reason, we are not in a position to dig deep within ourselves, take careful observations and focus on building humane and prosperous nation. During such trying times, it is common for us Africans to invoke and seek the wisdom of our Elders:

In only a few years the internet has revolutionized trade, health, education, and, indeed, the very fabric of human communication and exchange. Moreover it potential is far greater than what we have seen in the relatively short time since its creation. In managing, promoting and protection its presence in our lives, we need to be no less creative than those who invented it. Clearly there is need for governance, but that does not necessarily mean that it has to be done in the traditional way, for something that is very different’. Kofi Annan

Let us start this discussion by accepting that laws, regulations and institutions exist for the welfare and well being of the people and not the other way. We must expect more from our institutions and our laws.

We must design our institutions to reflect our values and highest ideals. We resist the tendency to turn our tools into toys. Because in the final analysis New Media are tools with great transformative potentials but it is up us how we harness this promise into reality

First, we must question whether the very notions of regulation and freedom of expression do not exist in contradiction to each other. After 1994, the definitions appeared to be rather simple – “the old regime was corrupt and ineffective” and slogans abounds as with all revolutions ‘probity’ ‘accountability’ ‘transparency’. Definitions were easy and the entire world quite uncomplicated.

Then a transition to constitutional government, constructed a wonderful Constitution, an election was won and the revolutionaries became the government.

Definitions, roles and tasks have been exceedingly complex since. So, how does the 1997 Constitution manage continuity and change together? What part of what we are and do is alterable, as against those elements that must remain constant? Similar questions have arisen and were answered within the context of the Constitution.

In the preamble, we are challenged thus:

This constitution provides for us a fundamental Law, which affirms our commitment to freedom, justice, probity and accountability. It also affirms the principle that all power emanate from the sovereign will of the people.

 

The fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution, will ensure for all time respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to ethnic considerations, gender, language or religion. In acknowledging our fundamental rights, we also affirm our duties and responsibilities as citizens of this Country.

 

This Constitution guarantees participatory democracy that reflects the undiluted choice of the people. The functions of the arms of government have been clearly defined, their independence amply secured with adequate checks and balances to ensure that they all work harmoniously together towards our common good.

 

As we usher in the Second Republic and beyond we give ourselves and generations of Gambians yet unborn this Constitution as a beacon of hope for peace and stability in our society and the good governance of The Gambia for all time”.

The most important questions thrown up by constitutional government include the use of the rule of law to perform social engineering feats; developing state and non-state institutions as part of instruments of transformation, oversight of government implementation of laws, regulations and policies, mass mobilization of funds through taxes and accountability.

And the challenges that need to be addressed include: how to use the state creatively to pursue sectoral and general interests. The people in whose name the Government exist have to continuously ask tough questions. If these are the challenges of the present to the government, what then of the challenges of rights free expression in age overflowing with tools of mass communication, and our obligations? How do these fit in when there is no easy fallback to bashing the past? Should any part of the body of our laws and regulations be altered or modernised?

There is an exceedingly important and humbling challenge that we have to respond to in recognising that very little of what we do is permanent. History will demonstrate that the infrastructure development and the concomitant opportunities it generates are unlikely to be a constant feature.

In formulating credible alternatives, as Africans, we must ask ourselves the right questions, we must interrogate the relevant issues to us; we must not waste our intellectual firepower fighting imaginary challenges, threats or enemies instead of tackling the real problems of poverty, ignorance, wars, civil strife and underdevelopment ravishing our continent.

We must ask ourselves, how is it that no African has ever won the Nobel Prize in Physics or Chemistry? Why are we constantly cheerleading for the innovativeness of others? What should we do with our inheritance from colonialism? Most our laws affecting human freedom and prosperity have their origins in colonial rule. How can frameworks and paradigms that were designed to subjugate our people be used as instruments to enlarge our individual freedoms?

 I do not offer any specific answers to our myriad problems rather I wish to plant the seeds of critical thinking about the state of Africa and to provoke a cooperative contest of ideas about our own responsibility for developments in the continent in the hope that Africans can and will inherit a culture of human rights. 

 

Global computer-based communications cut across territorial borders, creating a new realm of human activity and undermining the feasibility--and legitimacy--of applying laws based on geographic boundaries. While these electronic communications play havoc with geographic boundaries, a new boundary, made up of the screens and passwords that separate the virtual world from the "real world" of atoms, emerges. This new boundary defines a distinct Cyberspace that needs and can create new law and legal institutions of its own.

 

Territorially-based law-making and law-enforcing authorities find this new environment deeply threatening. But established territorial authorities may yet learn to defer to the self-regulatory efforts of Cyberspace participants who care most deeply about this new digital trade in ideas, information, and services. Separated from doctrine tied to territorial jurisdictions, new rules will emerge, in a variety of online spaces, to govern a wide range of new phenomena that have no clear parallel in the non-virtual world. These new rules will play the role of law by defining legal personhood and property, resolving disputes, and crystallizing a collective conversation about core values.

 

Control over physical space, and the people and things located in that space, is a defining attribute of sovereignty and statehood. Law-making requires some mechanism for law enforcement, which in turn depends (to a large extent) on the ability to exercise physical control over, and to impose coercive sanctions on, law-violators. For example, the U.S. government does not impose its trademark law on a Gambian business operating in the Gambia, at least in part because imposing sanctions on the Gambian business would require assertion of physical control over those responsible for the operation of that business.

 

Such an assertion of control would conflict with the Gambian government's recognized monopoly on the use of force over its citizens.

We generally accept the notion that the persons within a geographically defined border are the ultimate source of law-making authority for activities within that border. The "consent of the governed" implies that those subject to a set of laws must have a role in their formulation. By virtue of the preceding considerations, the category of persons subject to a sovereign's laws, and most deeply affected by those laws, will consist primarily of individuals who are located in particular physical spaces.

Similarly, allocation of responsibility among levels of government proceeds on the assumption that, for many legal problems, physical proximity between the responsible authority and those most directly affected by the law will improve the quality of decision making, and that it is easier to determine the will of those individuals in physical proximity to one another.

The best part of these new media tools is that they are cheap, universal, pro-democracy, pro-freedom and pro-liberty. Indeed, not since the printing press was invented and the Word became free locally has such a swift transformation of the force of the Word taken place so globally. An era of citizen journalism and free media is upon us and this will have far-reaching consequences for democracy and accountability.

 

And believe that in the absence of a freedom of Information Act any legal and regulatory framework that is put up runs the risk of making shots in the Dark or be needlessly draconian,   I believe that the US Constitution got it right.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.

FAJ Statement on the Non-Inclusion of Freedom of Expression in the Agenda of the NGOs Forum preceding the 49th session of African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 50,000 journalists organised in 41 journalists’ trade unions and associations in 39 African countries, expresses its disappointment over the  non-inclusion of Freedom of Expression as a panel item in the agenda of the NGO Forum preceding the 49th session of the African Commission on Human People’s Rights which is scheduled to take place on 25 – 27 April 2011 by the event’s host and the main organiser.


1)     FAJ received the brochure and the information from the event’s host and the main organiser, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Studies (ACDHRS), on 25 March, which was also the date of the deadline for registration for NGO Forum.


2)     In the circulated brochure by ACDHRS, freedom of expression was included in the “proposed agenda” of the NGO Forum.


3)     Following internal consultations with its leadership, the affiliated sub-regional associations and like-minded free expression organisations, FAJ, which helped organise the last panel at the NGO Forum, formally requested that Freedom of Expression be included in the agenda of the NGO Forum. In response, the Secretariat of the ACDHRS declared that Freedom of Expression will not be in the panels of the NGO Forum due to a “late” request.


4)     Though the reason for the rejection of our request for Freedom of Expression panel in the NGO Forum was given with untrue rationale, we still await the reason for the removal of freedom of expression from the “proposed agenda” according to the brochure, which also indicated that the NGO Forum agenda is guided by the agenda of the ACHPR session.  

 

5) FAJ in further correspondences with the Secretariat ACDHRS did bring it to the attention of the Secretariat that freedom of expression is top in the agenda of the ACHPR session. Hence, should the organisers, who also circulated the brochure be true to the intentions, Freedom of Expression should be included in the agenda of the NGO Forum and not rejected and removed.


The decision of ACDHRS and the rationale in Centre’s response to FAJ’s written request are not convincing and clearly show that the Centre did not make adequate efforts to accommodate the issue of freedom of expression.


FAJ wishes to state categorically that ACDHRS’s decision to exclude freedom of expression from the agenda is unfair, undemocratic and unacceptable, and the Centre’s decision is additional support to and a tool for those who flagrantly violate freedom of expression and freedom of press in Africa.

 

FAJ regards this decision as complicated and dishonest, it is far removed from the defence of human rights and a major blow to the credibility of the Centre and the NGO Forum.

By Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator

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Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh participated in a rare meeting with select members of the West African nation's press corps. Jammeh spoke in favor of access to public information. He announced that he would allow The Standard newspaper to resume publication, five months after the National Intelligence Agency forced its editor, Sheriff Bojang, to halt production. But the president largely lashed out at the Gambian private press and critics of his repressive media policies in the meeting, a tense session that was broadcast on state television. Jammeh, a former army captain who seized power in a 1994 coup, spoke in a harsh and contemptuous tone as he addressed media owners invited to the State House in the capital, Banjul.

"If anybody thinks that this is a mere public relations stunt, you're mistaken," Jammeh told journalists and a few officials present. "What you perceive as a reality is not reality," he said, chastising journalists for portraying the image that "Yahya Jammeh is a monster, he's a dictator, he's a killer, that Gambia is not a place for journalists.'" He insisted that he was not hostile to the press. "You think I'm stupid? I don't like the press, I don't like the freedom of press and I allow newspapers? I want to tell you that we're not your enemies," he said. "You have to a positive role to play in national development, peace, and stability."

The president was quick to narrow the scope of press freedom. "If you're interested in development, you want peace and stability, then you don't have anything to fear from me." But press freedom has limits, Jammeh said, and it is he who sets those limits. "One freedom I will never give you is the freedom, the liberty to write whatever you want that you know is not true. There is press freedom, but there's no freedom to lie."  

He added: "If I have to close any newspaper because you have violated the laws, I will close it. ... I will not billahi wallahi, sacrifice the interests, the peace and stability and well-being of the Gambian people at the altar of freedom of expression, or freedom of press, or freedom of movement or freedom of whatever."

At times, Jammeh appeared to contradict himself. "Sensationalism in journalism will not be accepted. Tell me one country where there's no law on libel," he said before declaring, "There's no section that criminalizes speech. I don't know where you got that from but as far as I am concerned, there's no law that says that you can be taken to court and charged with a criminal offense for speech." At least two of the journalists present--Pap Seine and Sam Sarr--could attest to the presence and use of such laws: They were jailed on criminal sedition charges in connection with a 2009 press release critical of Jammeh's comments on the unsolved murder of editor Deyda Hydara.

Again last week, Jammeh disputed any government responsibility in the Hydara case, as well as in the case of Ebrima "Chief" Manneh, a reporter who disappeared after being arrested in 2007. "I will not kill anyone outside of the law," he said. "You see, if I have to cut the heads of 10,000 people to save 1 million, I will do so with happiness, but on the condition that they have been sentenced by a court of law." He went on to repeat: "We will not kill anyone clandestinely." 

Yet Jammeh referenced Manneh's case as a "death," and suggested the journalist might have disappeared after attempting to illegally migrate to Europe or America. The statement implied knowledge of Manneh's fate that has not been disclosed publicly and that runs contrary to his administration's repeated public statements. In a letter to Jammeh on Monday, CPJ called on the president to clarify his reference to Manneh's "death" and fully disclose the government's knowledge of the case.

"In all previous public comments, administration officials have consistently denied any knowledge of Manneh's detention, whereabouts, or legal status," CPJ's letter said. "Those comments were made despite sightings of Manneh in government custody after his 2007 arrest. Government denials were also issued in response to a June 2008 ruling by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which found sufficient evidence to conclude Gambian authorities had improperly detained Manneh."

Jammeh had some words of warning for the assembled journalists, accusing some of being "mouthpiece of opposition parties." His words apparently chilled initial press coverage of the meeting; all the leading newspapers omitted the president's comments on the Hydara and Manneh cases.

President Jammeh Asked to Clarify Manneh’s ‘Death’

The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), an international media advocacy group based in the US has called on The Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh to fully disclose his knowledge of the missing Gambian journalist’s fate.
Chief Ebrima Manneh, a senior reporter of pro-government Daily Observer newspaper disappeared since 2007 and his whereabouts remain unknown to his colleagues and family.
He was allegedly arrested by plain cloth national security agents in his office on July 7, 2007. However, The Gambia government had denied knowledge of Chief Manneh’s whereabouts.
But in a rare dialogue with The Gambian media chiefs recently, President Yahya Jammeh was quoted as saying that Chief Ebrima Manneh may have died.
“Let me make it very clear [to you] that the government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh or Deyda Hydara or the disappearances of so many people,” Jammeh was quoted as saying.
He also suggested that Mr Manneh might have disappeared after attempting to illegally migrate to Europe for greener pastures.
“Your statement implies [your] knowledge of Manneh’s fate that has not been conveyed to the journalist’s family or disclosed publicly,” CPJ tells President Jammeh in a letter sent to the State House, made available to The Daily News.
“In the interest of transparency and to relieve the anguish of Manneh’s family, which deserves to know his fate, we call on you to fully disclose your knowledge of Manneh’s fate and to order all appropriate investigations into his case,” CPJ’s letter reads.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Court of Justice in June 2008 found sufficient evidence to hold Gambian government responsible for illegally detaining Mr Manneh.
The sub-regional court ordered The Gambia government to pay US$1, 000 in compensation and ordered for the immediate release of Chief Manneh.
However, at the time of going to press, The Gambia government is yet to act on the court’s ruling.

Kudos to Fatou Camara for Jammeh-Media forum, but….

Kudos to Fatou Camara, the newly appointed Director of Press and Public Relations at State House for achieving within a week of her appointment what all those before her failed to achieve, which is to bring together President Jammeh and journalists of the private media under one roof to discuss pertinent issues.
While it may be too early in the day to guess whether the timing of the meeting was prompted by current events in North Africa or it was a genuine attempt on the part of the regime to dialogue with such an important segment of the society, but Fatou still deserves some commendation for no doubt being instrumental to bringing it about.

There is certainly an indication of some sincerity on Fatou’s part to realize an improvement in relations between the private media and the executive, which had continuously seen a downward slide since 1994.
It is quite apparent that those who had occupied the position before her had never mustered the courage that she had to convince President Jammeh of the need to meet the journalists.
While President Jammeh, as expected, used the occasion to re-iterate his ever-readiness to punish journalists who criticize him, but the very fact that he agreed to hold his first such meeting with journalists of the private media for more than 15 years, is an apparent indication that he has realized that it is not in the interest of his regime to maintain that belligerent attitude and continue to see the journalists as tools of the West, always ready to use all available means to pull him down.
We can therefore hope and pray that after this meeting, he would henceforth not regard the journalists as monsters but just ordinary citizens who, like all sincere Gambians, want the best for this country.
It is also quite an achievement to hear President Jammeh acknowledge that the press has a positive role to play in national development, which had never been acknowledged before by his regime. He and other members of the regime had always treated the private press as mere tools of western hegemony bent on destabilizing the regime.
While President Jammeh also should be commended for agreeing to the meeting with the journalists, it was however disappointing to hear him also use the occasion to bash at the media. Everyone expected him to be much more reconciliatory in his response to the concerns expressed by the journalists, but instead, he as usual seems to have been speaking above the heads of the journalists, using such terms as “I will deal with you…”, “when you cross the line…”, “I will never compromise national security..”, as well as “I will not listen to any Westerner”, giving the impression that the private media is under the control of the West instead of being owned and managed by responsible Gambians who are just as concerned about the peace and stability of this country as he.
He also repeated his regime’s age-old misconception that Gambian journalists write negative articles about the regime only to get visas from western embassies. He however failed to realize that all the media chiefs who were at that meeting with him had been all over the world and if they had any inclination to go into exile, they would never have been at that meeting.
Therefore, it is time that President Jammeh and his regime accepted that Gambian journalists are not only guided by the principles of journalism in doing their work, but they are also quite responsible to allow anyone outside to control them.
One other possible positive outcome of the meeting is President Jammeh’s emphasis that his government has no policy in place that prevents public officials from speaking to the media. While most of those who spoke on the government’s side emphasized the need for journalists to get their facts right, but they failed to accept the fact that if the public officials are afraid to speak to them about any issue in their domain, then it would be impossible for the journalists to get those ‘facts’ that they constantly referred to.
We can therefore hope that henceforth the public officials will muster the courage to talk to the media about issues pertaining to their departments and responsibilities without fearing being punished for it.
While the media chiefs, during their meeting with President Jammeh, had no doubt raised quite pertinent issues, especially the inherent problems of access to information being encountered by members of the private media, with the exception of Daily Observer, but two other issues that needed to have been given much emphasis during the discussion, which were alluded to by Sam Sarr, were the failure of the regime to give due attention to the investigations into the killing of Deyda Hydara and the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh. While no one has yet come up with any tangible evidence as to who may have killed Deyda Hydara or whether Chief Manneh is being held by government agents, but as Gambians, whatever happened to them is the responsibility of the government to investigate and come to a logical conclusion, which the government has woefully failed to do.
While Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy was quick to emphasize that the government went to sympathize with the Hydara family after Deyda’s death, but the issue of concern to journalists is the regime’s lack of interest in mounting a credible investigation into his killing, just as they are expected to do for any other Gambian who is killed in such circumstances. One would therefore wonder why the regime has chosen to adopt such a posture in the case of Deyda.
President Jammeh was also quoted pointing out the proliferation of media outlets since his regime came to power, both print and electronic, which he said goes to vindicate his government in terms of press freedom, noting that this was not the case before. He then pointed out that if his government does not want the press, it would not have allowed the operation of these outlets, given the fact that it is the government that issued licences, and hence none of them could have operated without a licence.
However, he failed to add that those media houses risk being arbitrarily closed down if they write or broadcast programmes that are not palatable to the regime. A recent case in point was the closure of Teranga FM for merely reviewing the newspapers in the local languages.
We can also recall that those were similar reasons that led to the closure of Citizen FM and Sud FM, as well as the arbitrary closure of The Independent newspaper and The Standard without any court order.
Therefore, while the regime would tolerate as many media houses as possible as long as they conform to certain norms acceptable to the authorities, but they would not hesitate to close down those that fail to adhere to the strict self-censorship regime that has been forced on them.
As a result for instance, all the private radio stations have been reduced to mere entertainment and commercial avenues and none of them now dares to discuss political issues or even carry uncensored independent news of their own.
If the regime is indeed sincere in opening the media space and respecting the constitutional provisions of allowing divergent views to be aired, then all media outlets should be allowed to use all available legal means to inform the public rather than being subjected to such unfair restrictions or being arbitrarily closed down merely for doing exactly that.
Also, as per Section 108 of the Constitution, “All state owned newspapers, journals, radio and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion” which the government should respect rather than continuing to use the public media as mere propaganda tools of the APRC. 
“If I think that the whole government is APRC, I’m making a great mistake,” President Jammeh was quoted saying, but in reality, there is a clear indication that there is hardly any distinction between what belongs to the state and what belongs to the APRC. A good case in point is the fact that Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) behaves more like an APRC propaganda organ than a public broadcaster, paid and maintained by the Gambian tax payers.  For instance, any event of the APRC, no matter how trivial, is treated as front page news while there is hardly ever any positive mention of the opposition as if they are non-Gambians who have no stake in the public media.
Therefore, if President Jammeh and his regime were indeed interested in responsible journalism rather than just praise singing, they should have insisted on the GRTS serving all Gambians rather than just the APRC and the ruling clique.
As long as such an untenable situation persists, no one would ever be convinced of the regime’s adherence to press freedom and the rule of law.

Veteran Journalist Takes ‘the Bull by the Horn’

The oldest practicing Gambian journalist Mr Swaebou Conateh on Wednesday took the bull by its horn demanded president Jammeh’s government to implement certain programmes in order to make more satisfactory and systematic progress on what, he said, is now a vexed question.
Mr Conateh , publisher/editor of The Gambia News & Report weekly magazine who make made this remark on Wednesdya during a meeting with the president said  his demands are already in existence in most countries.

“I should first of all thank fatou camara, who just in just few days of assuming this high office in the office of the president has shown the imagination and drive to call for this meeting. The high level of attendance despite the short notice goes to confirm our appreciation of her effort and of the significance of the meeting.
I happen to be the oldest practicing journalist in this country, though I will not tell my age. Suffice is to say that I have practised journalism in this country and in other countries fore more than 50 years and have therefore been acquainted with the practice and nature of journalism profession as a result.
During this time, I have also been privileged to have made it possible to so many of our young men and women to not only join the profession but to rise to the top through training and self drive.
Among these am proud to say is the present Director General of GRTS, Alahagie Momodou Sanyang.
From what I understand to be the purpose of this meeting by Fatou Camara, the idea is to bring about wider understanding between government and media in this country; It goes without saying that the relations could not have been worse than now.  However it is not too late to adjust the position so that the Gambia can among its many achievements under your government also boast of having one of the freest press in Africa if not in the world.
I would not wish to rekindle the fire of old wounds, like the detentions, the prosecutions which have taken place and mysterious killings and disappearances.
I also do not think we will do justice to our profession and our country by turning this unique and very rare opportunity into mere cosmetic, public relation exercise. I therefore propose to take the bull by the horns to ask for certain programmes of the government to be carried out  in order to make more satisfactory and systematic progress  on what is now a vexed question. Let it be noted that many of these proposals have already become the norm  in many African countries.
In terms of legislation I would like to include decriminalizing speech. It is noteworthy to see that only journalists and politicians have been accorded special rights in our constitution  as the many provisions on freedom of expression and of the press show.
We should therefore like to say as the Chinese to let a thousand flowers bloom. We are grateful for the enabling environment which has led to the proliferation of radio stations and the coming to the fore of so many newspapers. We salute your government for such an achievement.
To   should add that expertise is available in country, within the commonwealth, to help government under the necessary studies and bring about the recommended reforms.
In the area of free speech, we should decriminalize speech since otherwise one is in contradiction to universal principles as the free flow of information, which is necessary for human understanding, cooperation and developments.
Our laws on seditious publications, our libel laws and false publications laws are either archaic or out of step with the information age  and should be repealed  or reviewed.
We should also have a freedom of information act as this will provide correct rather than clandestine  means of gaining access to government information the public already have a right under our constitution.
Finally, I should like to recommend that government provide the platform for regular press briefings, especially at the presidents office, the foreign office and the interior ministry. This will afford both government and press a clearing house for information and obviate the publication of false information.
Government  should  therefore have an open door approach in its dealings with the press as a matter of policy  and practice. Officials should be allowed to meet members of the press, give interviews  and answer any questions to make it possible for information to flow easily between government and the wider public.
Above all the press, conferences of the presidency to which all journalist  accredited for the occasion  should be reconstituted .
With this humble submission, I thank your Excellency the president for affording us this opportunity and hope that the recommendations made will be given due consideration. I can assure you that we media house owners or publishers and the press union will always be available to offer  further advice on any or all of these points.”

Anti-Media Laws Are Still a Thorn in the Flesh of Journalists

“I would first of all like to thank you very much for inviting us to know what exactly our concerns are. This to my view is long overdue as we have over the years called for better relations between government and the media especially the independent press.
We know this has not been so for more than a decade, despite repeated overtures from the press.
Your Excellency, the latest such attempt was the New Year messages by media chiefs published on our paper, in which we expressed among others, the need to build good links between State House and the independent press.

It is paramount that the independent press has access to government news, so that we can effectively contribute our quota to the dissemination of information about what the government is doing and saying, etc. for the benefit of the general public, and our readers, at home and abroad.
We want to make our position very clear that we are not an enemy to the state as many people perceive us in certain quarters. The journalist does not see him or herself in that role. We are neither backers, nor oppositions. Our job requires us to report on both the pleasant and the sordid aspects of society. We as journalists have a duty which we want to fulfill, since we have a constitutional mandate to do so.
All we ask is that the government facilitates this by giving us access to public information, as and when required. The journalist does not create news; he or she forwards it as they see it, whether pleasant or not.
To give us such access will enable us fulfill our duty as dictated by the constitution of this country. We give credit where credit is due. Government at all level should take criticisms in good faith.
As far as we are concerned at The Point Newspaper, this is what the paper was established to do, and will continue to do without any bias. We shall continue to uphold the principles laid down since the establishment of the paper.
We want to assure every Gambian and all our readers, that we shall continue to be alert, so as not to deviate from the path we embarked on when The Point newspaper was launched nearly 20 years ago.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight some few pressing issues facing the media that we want you to help in addressing.
Your Excellency, We live in a society that has people with divergent views and dissenting opinions and quite naturally, the media is expected to be pluralistic. We do not want to be seen as enemies but as partners in development. We are simply contributing our quota to nation building.
Access to information, particularly from official sources is a huge task for journalists in The Gambia. We on the side of the press will love to have information directly from government, preferably through spokesperson or through press officers.
Anti-media laws are still a thorn in the flesh of journalists and the media. They are inimical to freedom of expression and the media, and thwart the efforts of the media.
In short, libel should be decriminalised and the law on sedition should be repealed. The law on false publication and the Newspaper (Amendment) Act 2004 should also be repealed as they serve no other purpose than to act as a bottleneck in our democratic process.
Access to training for media personnel has seen some progress last year, but a lot more needs to be done. The institutionalisation of training of media personnel, particularly to diploma level at the University of the Gambia must proceed vigorously. This will enhance the quality of output and strengthen professionalism.
The high cost of printing materials and other taxes should be reviewed. We are of the view that the education levy and other taxes should be waived as we also serve as educators. We also appeal to Government to resume their subscription to the private media and to honour their obligation to pay in time, their advertisement.
As we speak, some government offices owe us a lot of money and this is really affecting our production.
We would like to thank and commend the new DPPR Fatou Camara for her foresight in facilitating this meeting just few weeks after assuming office.

PROHIBITION OF SMOKING AT THE GAMBIA PRESS UNION PREMISES:

PROHIBITION OF SMOKING AT THE GAMBIA PRESS UNION PREMISES:

This is to inform members, visitors and the general public that despite management’s efforts to discourage people from smoking at the Gambia Press Union premises, people still continue to smoke within the premises.

We wish to remind those doing this act that smoking in public is strictly prohibited at the GPU premises, as it’s an office for members and the general public. This notice is in line with the Union’s policy and the newly Anti-Smoking Act being enforced.

Appropriate actions will be taken against anybody found wanting on such practices.

The cooperation of all those concerned is highly solicited.

In the service of our members and the Gambia as a nation, we remain.

Mr Lamin Njie

1st Assistant Secretary General

YJAG commemorates 3rd anniversary


Friday 8th October 2010

The Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG) on 16th September 2010 commemorated its third anniversary on the theme: "Promoting the welfare of the young journalists of The Gambia".

The anniversary was observed with a march-past starting from Africell's head office through

Kairaba Avenue

to the Traffic Light. Led by the Gambia Police Force band, the march-past was followed by a symposium held at the Joint Officers Mess in Kotu.

Speaking on the occasion, the assistant secretary general of the association, Modou Joof, said that after observing a democratic election last September, the current executive continues with the action plan of the previous executive.

He said that some of the activities they carried out in the past one year were conference on climate change, courtesy call to media chiefs and a workshop on media laws.

"The day is a moment of reflection on our achievements and challenges," Hassan Sallah, president of the association, said. "YJAG is committed to promoting the welfare of the young journalists in the country."

The Executive Secretary of the National Youth Council, Marchel Mendy, reminded young journalists that they have a big role to play in nation building.

He also advised journalists to respect the law and ensure the ethics of the profession are always observed.

For his part, the managing director of Today newspaper, Abdul Hamid Adiamoh, said the theme for this year's celebration "is general," while encouraging the young journalists to struggle and promote their welfare instead of depending on others to promote their interests.

Pa Malick Faye, Managing Director of the Daily Observer, encouraged members of the association to foster unity among them. He also advised young journalists to place more focus and attention on learning and improving their skills rather than making the monetary aspects their primary goal in the profession.

The Managing Director of Foroyaa, Sam Sarr, said a journalist must always strive to learn, acquire journalistic skills, be independent minded and think positively.

He also advised young journalists "not to allow anyone to use" them for their selfish gains.

"As a leader, you must listen to criticism in order to move in the right direction," Mr. Sarr, who is also a board member of YJAG, told young journalists.

Other speakers on the occasion included Musa Sheriff, managing editor of the Voice newspaper, and Babucarr Senghore, deputy editor of The Point.

Present at the occassion was YJAG founding president Nfamara Jawneh who  earlier described the day as "worthy of celebrating."

Author: Yusuf Ceesay

IPI General Assembly passes resolutions on debate-filled Second day of World Congress

 

Friday 8th October 2010

Members of the International Press Institute on Monday unanimously passed 10 press freedom-related resolutions, during the global press freedom organisation’s 59th General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

The resolutions covered: a call for the release of journalists in Iran; a call on the Ukrainian authorities to end impunity and allow independent television stations to operate; a call on Zambia to relinquish control of the media; the deterioration in Rwanda media freedom; a call on the Turkish authorities to release all imprisoned journalists; media censorship and oppression in Fiji; constitutional amendments and media repression in Sri Lanka; Cuban blogger and PI World Press Freedom Hero Yoani Sanchez; legislative developments in South Africa; and a deterioration in the press freedom climate of Europe.

In other news from Day Two of the World Congress, a panel on "Breaking News" discussed the Internet’s ability to provide correct information. The Internet is only "a vehicle for the delivery" of information, said panelist Harold Evans, former editor of The Times, adding that it is still up to journalists to conduct research.

Shortly thereafter "IPI Report: Brave News Worlds" was presented by its Editor in Chief, Bill Mitchell of the US-based Poynter Institute. "Increasing collaboration, hybrid business models, and the reinvigoration of investigative reporting, these are all very promising developments," Mitchell said.

The final session for the day, "Media Ethics in the New Media Landscape," related to the ability to apply traditional journalistic codes of ethics to online journalism. "We have to have as much self-regulation as we possibly can but we have to be honest: it is never going to cure every illness," said Guy Black, Executive Director, Telegraph Media Group in the UK.

Speech by the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer for IPI (International Press Institute) World Congress opening dinner on 12 September 2010 at the Hofburg Palace "Redoutensaal"

 

Friday 8th October 2010

The Peresident of Austria Heinz Fischer last Tuesday 12th September hosted 60 World Press Freedom Heroes of the International Press Institute to a dinner as part of the IPI’s 60th anniversary.

Among them was Pap Saine, Co-publisher and Managing Editor of the Point Newspaper who was in Vienna, Austria to receive an award from the IPI as one of its World Press Freedom Heroes.

Below we reproduce the full text of President heniz’s statement at the dinner:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you here at the "Redoutensaal" of the Vienna Hofburg, a hall steeped in history, to the World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI), which will take place from 11 to 14 September in both Vienna and Bratislava.

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the International Press Institute, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary here at this Congress.

This leading global organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom was founded in October 1950 at Columbia University in New York. Its emergence was midwived by 34 renowned editors from 15 countries.

Today, 60 years later, the IPI comprises about 2,000 members from 120 countries. One could even refer to this leading media organization as a "United Nations of the World of the Media."

Austria and the City of Vienna have a special connection with the International Press Institute, as the IPI has been headquartered here since 1992. Furthermore, it was led by the Austrian Johann Fritz for 15 years from 1992 to 2007, who, in his capacity as Director, also spurred new ideas in this organization with its worldwide operations in the media field.

Personally, I fondly remember my participation in the IPI Congress here in Vienna in 2002, when I was invited as the then President of the Austrian National Council to give a talk on "Parliamentarianism and Freedom of the Press".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year's Congress, marking the IPI's 60th anniversary, focuses on the "state of the media", and specifically on "Thinking the Unthinkable: Are We Losing the News?."

It will examine new challenges in the media landscape, such as how to ensure the survival of traditional media and manage co-existence with new media.

Nonetheless, the goals of the IPI members, which include prestigious media such as BBC, CNN, Deutsche Welle, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Ha'aretz from Israel, Asahi Shinbun from Japan and others, have remained the same as they were 60 years ago: the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion, free access to information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

Furthermore, 60 years after the IPI's founding, in the first decade of the 21st century, press freedom is a global concern that still needs to be fought for day by day in many countries.

Article 19 of the United Nation's Universal Declaration on Human Rights stipulates the right to freedom of expression and emphasizes that this right includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Furthermore, this fundamental right is granted by numerous other international instruments and national laws and regulations. Practical experience, however, shows that freedom of expression and press freedom are threatened time and again. The IPI's "Death Watch" illustrates just how dramatic is the extent of this threat: in 2009, 110 journalists lost their lives while carrying out their profession. Thus far in 2010, this death toll already encompasses some 52 journalists.

This sad state of affairs demonstrates the IPI's importance as an organization that fights any restrictions to press freedom and strives to protect journalists against violations as they carry out their profession with all its responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Austria, the call for press freedom was heard loud and clear as far back as the civil revolution of 1848. Consequently, the "Reichstag" elected in 1848 elaborated a draft of fundamental rights which granted particular importance to the freedom of opinion and of the press.

Today’s press freedom as enshrined in the Austrian Constitution effectively goes back to the year 1867: Article 13 of the "Staatsgrundgesetz", the Fundamental Laws governing the general rights of the citizens, guarantees freedom of expression. The legal provision for this fundamental right is still effective today. Since 1867, the guarantee of the freedom of expression as a basic right anchored in Austria’s Fundamental Laws has been given further depth, yet at times was also spurned.

Most flagrantly so in the gruesome period from 1938 to 1945.

Yet, the imperative of guaranteeing freedom of the media and of opinion as is the case in a democratic constitutional state such as Austria espouses the commitment to prevent any abuse of this freedom.

For it can be well that conflicting priorities may arise between the freedom of expression or of the media and other legally protected rights equally guaranteed by the Fundamental Laws, such as the presumption of innocence enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, which has to apply to anyone charged with a criminal offence. The respect of privacy and the "protection of the reputation or the rights of others" (Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) also set limits to absolute press freedom.

In this context, it is to be noted that guaranteeing freedom of opinion and of the media as well as protecting privacy and personal rights constitute two of the most central pillars of a democratic constitutional state.

Time and again, the daily work of journalists and media relations officers reflects these conflicting priorities. Here, it is the role of laws to adequately align interests in the areas of civil, criminal and media law, and to balance the freedom of the media and the protection of privacy.

This requires sensitivity and sound judgement and is certainly not always an easy task.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to explore one more thought connected to your overall topic of the "status of the media". New communication and media technologies are evolving at an ever growing pace.

Just as Gutenberg's invention of the printing press changed the world, so nowadays do mobile phones, the internet, Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia, whose usage has become a given, especially for younger generations. We are heading for the "transparent individual" and should take seriously concerns regarding privacy and data protection, as well as the resulting impact on the media field.

From my point of view, following a political debate, we will need international rules and regulations concerning the rapid technological evolution of the digital world. Increasingly, we are faced with the question of the actual meaning of "privacy" under digital conditions - I call to mind "Google und Street View".

An open and democratic society must reflect on how to set limits for the "digital public" to ensure the protection of the individual. In the media context, we also face the question as to whether or not online media threaten the print edition of newspapers and magazines and increasingly deprive them of their economic resources, and how the "paper/print only" business model can survive. All these are fascinating questions that will surely play a role on the agenda of the IPI Congress.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

This year's IPI World Congress, marking its 60th anniversary, takes place in the "twin cities" of Vienna and Bratislava. These cities have close ties both historically and culturally, yet over many years existed side by side in a divided Europe. 45 minutes away from Vienna, the Iron Curtain appeared to be an insurmountable barrier.

21 years ago, this barrier was torn down, and today our borders are open. Both Austria and Slovakia are members of the European Union. The freedom of opinion and of the press is enshrined in the Constitutions of both countries and has greatly progressed in other countries of the former Eastern Bloc as well. It is our big task to fill our Constitutions with life and keep them alive.

I wish your Congress and your discussions much success and hope that you will take home with you good impressions from the heart of Europe - both from Vienna and Bratislava.

NEA organises 'Media Clinic' for journalists

 

 

 

Friday 8th October 2010

Gambian journalists, on 17th September 2010, benefited from a day 'Media clinic' under the auspices of the African Network for Environment Journalists (ANEJ)) Gambia Chapter.

Organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA), in collaboration with ANEJ, the media clinic was held to brief journalists about environmental issues.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on behalf of the Executive Director of the NEA at the agency's head office in Kanifing, Bully Dibba, Director of Administration and Finance, recognised the importance of media in information dissemination. "Nothing can be achieved in the NEA's environment campaign without partnering with the media," he said.

Veering into the cardinal issue of the environment, Mr. Dibba noted: "The issue of the environment is not something very easy; therefore we need the intervention of all stakeholders to play their part towards environmental issues.

"The NEA is a young institution and we believe in involving young people and their ideas in order to extend the issue of the environment to the doorstep of every Gambian and non-Gambian in the country."

He said the NEA's doors are open to journalists, and media practitioners are always invited to the office to obtain veritable information that can be used in reporting environmental issues. "We want you to be coming for interviews on matters relating to the environment," he said, adding that journalists reporting on environmental issues should be well informed and knowledgeable about environmental subjects.

Speaking earlier, Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang, Coordinator of ANEJ and Assistant Programmes Officer at the NEA, informed journalists about the significant role they play in environmental concerns.

"The Media plays a very important role in the development process, most especially when it comes to issues of the environment," Mr, Sanyang said, adding: "We are all aware that the environment causes lots of problems and that makes it everybody's concern."

"The NEA feels that the environment journalist has very crucial role to play in creating awareness on environmental issues."

NEA's senior programme officer Momodou Jama Suwareh and programme officer Famara Drammeh also spoke on the occasion.

Author: Bakary Samateh

GPU Executive Director on Pap Saine's award

Friday 8th October 2010

The Executive Director of the Gambia Press Union Aloa Ahmed Alota has said that Pap Saine's world press freedom hero award has drawn global attention to the media situation in The Gambia.

Mr. Saine, the Managing Editor and co-proprietor of The Point newspaper was awarded by the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna, Austria in recognition of his commitment and dedication to the promotion of journalism during the past 40 years.

Mr. Alota who worked at The Point and co-authored the book - A Living Mirror - which chronicles the life of Mr. Saine's slain colleague and co-founder of The Point Deyda Hydara said this is the second award given to The Point newspaper. The first was in 2006 in Germany.

He said: "This means that The Gambian media is steadily gaining international attention and approval, which is a good development.

Considering what happened last year that is the conviction of the six journalists, this award will serve as an inspiration to all journalists to be steadfast in the pursuit to the common good."

Alota observed that the prestigious award will boost Saine's tenacity to press on with the pursuit of truth despite obvious challenges.

He also said lot of young journalists will draw inspiration from Saine and will refused to be frightened out of the profession.

The Press Union Director said Saine has gone through a lot of ordeal since 2004, and that journalism has done him good since 2004. "So I suppose he would have to learn to take the good with the bad," said Alota.

He told this reporter that every award is a reward for excellence in a particular activity. Despite all the tribulations Saine went through last year, he still sticks with journalism.

This, he said, explains why he has been named International Press Institute press freedom hero for 2010.

The Director said this is one of the greatest awards that can be conferred on any journalist.

He also indicated that the award imposes a huge responsibility on Pap Saine as a journalist and person. He said Saine is therefore expected to be the vanguard for the defense of freedom of expression in the world.

Author: Saikou Ceesay Gambia Affairs

Health Ministry attains nationwide DOTS coverage as journalists join TB-free campaign

Friday 8th October 2010


The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has again attained a nationwide Direct Observed Treatment (DOTS) based on the principle of at least one DOTS centre per one 100,000 population.

This was revealed in a statement read on behalf of the Chief Nursing Officer by the Chief Public Health Officer, Sanna Jawara, to members of the media fraternity at the opening of a two-day sensitization workshop on tuberculosis control and prevention. 

Organised by the National Tuberculosis Control programme of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the workshop was aimed, among other things, at outlining the role the media and journalists could play in the fight against T.B in The Gambia and at highlighting the national and global epidemiology of TB.

In his address to journalists at the opening ceremony, Sanna Jawara revealed that the forum was meant to inform and empower journalists with the knowledge and skills in supporting policy issues in the prevention and control of TB in The Gambia.

"Globally TB is second to HIVAIDS as a cause of illness and death of adult, amounting for nearly nine million cases of active diseases and two million deaths every year," he said, added: "Gambia began implementing the DOTS strategy well before it was recommended and adopted by the World Health Organization in 1991 as the most effective strategy for TB Control."

The Chief Public Health Officer, however, told journalists that diagnosis and treatment of TB in The Gambia provided free of charge to all patients irrespective of nationality, saying: This clearly demonstrates government's commitment to the effective implementation of DOTS strategy and the attainment of the Millennium Development  Goals and targets related to TB

Mr Camara said he was confident "journalists will use all their tools and weapons" in their arsenals to fight against TB in The Gambia while urging them to make maximum use of all their time to register positive impacts in the lives of patients and in the communities.

Speaking earlier, the Programme Manager at the TB Control Programme office, Ms Adama Jallaw, said the sensitization training was part of series of events organised by her office for health journalists.

"This new development is in recognition of the significant role journalists play in the health sector," she said. In line with the global plan to stop TB, Ms Jallow said her office would strike to intensify the involvement and participation of all stakeholders, especially heath journalists.

She added that the dissemination of correct information through the electronic and print media is very important in raising  awareness on TB.

"The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has made significant progress in the control of TB in The Gambia, particularly with respect to DOTS expansion, diagnosis and treatment".

Pa Momodou Faal, President of Heath Journalists Association and representative of the Gambia Press Union, hailed the efforts of the TB Control Programme for organising such trainings for journalists.

Faal, however, challenged the TB Control Programme to open their doors to the media to be able to access relevant information they can disseminate accurately and reliably to the public.

He also urged the journalists to make the best use of the knowledge gained at the workshop, while appealing for more training packages for them.

Author: Sainey M.k. Marenah

Veteran US journalist offers training to Gambian colleagues

Friday 8th October 2010

Veteran US journalist Judith Matloff, a professor of journalism at the Columbia University of the United States of America, Tuesday took some 20 Gambian journalists through a rigorous media training to enhance their journalistic quotient in the profession.

Participants were drawn from both the electronic and the print media to attend the one-day but loaded course at the American Corner at the Comium Building on Kairaba Avenue.

Ms Matloff, who was in The Gambia as a guest of the US Embassy, lectured on the role of journalists, professional code of conduct, accessing information, and writing good and insightful articles.

A foreign staff correspondent for 20 years, specialising in reporting conflicts and situations of turmoil, Ms Matloff told local journalists that the ethics and professional code of conduct in journalism are veritable tools for journalists, both national and internally, to abide by.

"These help a lot in the field of journalism as they guide a reporter to know what to," she said.

She also spoke on some aspects of investigative journalism, saying it should also go with the ethics of journalism.

"The use of language in reporting issues is also very fundamental," she added. "Use simple language that your readers can understand and make use of double checking in order to avoid problems. Don't use big words in your stories. Understand what off the record and background is."

She urged her Gambian colleagues to protect their information and sources, adding that facts in any story must be accurate, reliable and correct.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the course, the acting Head of US Diplomatic Mission in The Gambia, Madam Cindy Cregg, reminded the media of the important role they play in the dissemination of information in the society, while urging them to maintain professionalism at all times.

Cindy told journalists to make the best use of the training.

Author: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Journalists briefed on ASI activities

Friday 8th October 2010

At least Fifteen Journalists drawn from the print and electronic media Friday gathered at the conference hall of the National Malaria Control Programme in Kainfing for a briefing on activities of Ageing with a Smile Initiative (ASI) as part of activities marking International Day of Older People.

In his welcoming remarks, Pa Modou Faal, head of ASI advocacy team said the purpose of the press briefing was to update journalist on the activities of Ageing with smile Initiatives ASI as October 1st commemorated to recognize the efforts of the elderly.

Faal commended the media for responding to their call, while urging them to continue their commitment and dedication in rendering services to the public.

He also assured the media that although ASI is a young organization, it will work hand in hand with them for the development of all, noting that the aim of the organisation is to improve the livelihood of the elderly. In giving an overview of ASI, Bala Musa Joof, Coordinator said Ageing with a Smile Initiative is a new and innovative drive launched in The Gambia in January 2010 by the Hon. Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Abubacarr Gaye.

He noted that the initiative aims to improve the health and general welfare of the elderly people in the country.

According to him, ASI is a registered community based organisation out to improve the lives of the elderly. He also told journalists that ASI is here to render assistance to the elderly by giving them medicament free of charge and also organising fund raising for them to make a better life.

He said looking at the problems of the elderly persons, most of whom suffer from diabetes, hypertension, among other diseases, ASI deemed it necessary to intervene and render assistance to the elderly.

This initiative, he added is based on helping the elderly at their homes and communities, and is being piloted in the Greater Banjul Area in partnership with government institutions, the private sector and some NGOs.

He said the outcome of the pilot phase will be shared with a wide range of stakeholders including government, NGOs and community members at a seminar before it is rolled out to other communities in the country.

He highlighted some of their key intervention areas such as promotion of personal hygiene and basic sanitation for the elderly, provision of portable water supply, laundry, appropriate clothing.

Author: Abdoulie Nyockeh

Sports Journalists-Security problem resolved

Friday 8th October 2010

The misunderstanding between Gambian sports journalists and security personnel during international matches at the Independence Stadium is now a thing of the past, if the meeting between the Orgainsing Committee of the Gambia Football Association and Sports journalists is anything to go by.

Sunday's meeting was held at the GFA's Football House, attended by media representatives and the new executive members of the Sports Journalists Association of the Gambia (SJAG) with the GFA's Orgainising Committee headed by GFA 2nd Vice President Lamin King Colley.

The meeting agreed to meet the demands of the sports journalists, following a boycott of journalists and a protest letter written by SJAG.

Gambian sports journalists agreed to boycott reporting of the match between the Gambia U-20 versus Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday September 25th as an expression of  their dissatisfaction.

This was in connection with several cases of mal-treatment of journalists by the security personnel during international matches, including denying them access to conduct interviews with coaches and players after matches.

The meeting was described by many as very fruitful, and to have created a conducive environment for the stakeholders to dialogue and reached a common understanding.

Consequently, both parties were well orientated on their roles and responsibilities.

The Organizing Committee of the GFA agreed to respect the accredited Journalists' right to have access to the Press Stands freely; for Journalists to have access to the Press Conference Center and Mixed Zone, at least five minutes before the game ends; to organize pre and post match press conferences during International games, as well as to provide Press kits at least an hour before kick off.

The journalists were also asked to desist from conducting interviews at the pitch immediately after the game, but instead they should do it at the media room, which will be made fully operational by the GFA Organising Committee in future matches.

The security personnel, it was discussed, are there to safeguard the interest of everyone at the stadium, and are always acting on instructions based on the programmes given to them by the Gambia Football Association.

Another fruitful agreement reached was the need to provide the match line up of teams to journalists in time to avoid the unnecessary queuing of journalists to get it.

Both parties agreed to honour the issues discussed at the meeting, in the interest of national development.

Author: Sainabou Kujabi

Pap Saine challenges SJAG members

The honorary life president of SJAG, the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia, Pap Saine, has challenged the members of the association to continue working hard toward the common goal of moving sports forward.

Saine, who continues to play a leading role in helping the association realize its noble objectives, was among a host of high-profile dignitaries that witnessed the extra-ordinary congress of the SJAG held at the B.O. Semega Janneh Olympic Hall in Tallinding on Saturday.

Saine has accumulated a wealth of experience in sports journalism, following a successful 40-years experience in  journalism and he spoke at the congress, dwelling at length on the numerous successes the outgoing executive led by Namory Trawally registered, in their efforts to improve the standard of sports journalism in the Gambia during their tenure in office.

The managing director of the country's most authoritative newspaper, however, challenged the incoming executive members, under the leadership of the newly-elected President, Sainabou Kujabi, to do everything possible to continue raising the standard of the association, particularly in the area of sports, in a bid to move things forward.

Mr Saine in his speech described the congress as a significant milestone in the annals of sports journalism in the country.

The award-winning veteran Gambian journalist went on to use the occasion to advice the young reporters to stay away from being sentimental in whatever they do, that will jeopardize the progress of the association in earning the admiration of the international community.

"You have a lot of challenges ahead, and without hard work, morale, physical and financially support, the association will suffer," Saine the globe-trotting veteran journalist challenged members of the newly-elected executive.

Saine also used the platform to advice the members of the association to be committed, regarding the payment of their monthly subscription, and to always maintain discipline and respect among members, given the fact that we all belong to one family.

He also appealed to the Gambia Football Association to put in place all the necessary measures to avoid the fracas that occurred between the sports journalists association and security personnel during the Gambia versus Cote d?Ivoire football match at the Independence Stadium, which led to the media boycott of the international match.

Author: Lamin Drammeh

African Journalists Condemn Kidnapping of Union Leaders in Nigeria

Friday, July 16, 2010  

 

The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African Regional Organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), strongly condemned the kidnapping of Zonal leaders of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on 11 July 2010 as deplorable and a criminal act that was intended to destabilise NUJ’s dynamic leadership’s commitment to defend journalists’ rights and interests. According to a statement from NUJ,...

Message by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. JEAN PING, On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day

Monday, May 10, 2010  

While we are celebrating the 17th edition of the World Press Freedom Day, 168 journalists are currently imprisoned around the world for expressing their opinions. Of course, considerable progress has been made since the 1990’s, with the advent of a new era which favours multiparty politics and, at the same time, the birth of an independent press whose outspokenness has been beneficial to governance and democracy. However, since the 1991 Windhoek...

IFJ Calls for an end to Impunity, Violence perpetrated Against Journalists

Thursday, May 6, 2010  

World Press Freedom, was celebrated all over the world on Monday May 3rd 2010, here is a reproduction of IFJ on the day.

The 2nd Congress of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) held in Harare, Zimbabwe from March 27th -  28th 2010, strongly expressed  concerns about  the recurrent threats, violations, aggressions and assassinations against  journalists in the course of  their duties to inform the...

GPU Observes World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, May 6, 2010  

Gambia Journalists under the stewardship of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) on Monday 3rd May 2010 observed World Press Freedom Day. 3rd May had been set aside by the United Nations to reflect on press freedom and related issues. The observation of the day in the Gambia took the form of a symposium organized by GPU at the Alliance Franco Premises.

Speaking on the topic Threats to Media Freedom, the Former Director of Information Service, Mr....

Gambian Media Marks World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, May 6, 2010  

Media practitioners in The Gambia under the auspices of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) on Monday May 3rd joined the rest of the world in observing World Press Freedom Day.

The theme for this year was 'Freedom of information-the right to know.'

Addressing celebrants, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure, Mrs. Binta Singhateh, who deputised for her Minister, said the theme for this year's...

Government Graces GPU’s Occasion

Thursday, May 6, 2010  

In a rare move, the Gambia government has joined the media fraternity in observing this year’s World Press Freedom day held at Alliance Franco Gambienne along Kairaba Avenue on Monday 3rd May 2010.

The Gambia media have long decried Government’s unimpressive response to their reconciliation bid, but this year’s occasion witnessed the full participation of the information ministry, represented by the deputy permanent secretary.

The...

GPU Commemorates World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, May 6, 2010  

  Freedom of information- the right to know was this year’s theme for the world press freedom day which is observed on the 3rd May each year and offers the media fraternity the opportunity to know the importance of their rights in executing their work.

 

 This year’s commemoration was organised by The Gambia Press Union (GPU) at the Alliance Franco Gambienne and drew journalists from different media houses.

Emil Touray...

GPU Welcomes Release of Six Journalists

Saturday, September 5, 2009  

"We salute their courage, perseverance and determination of personal sacrifice as a contribution to our fight for media and its related freedoms in The Gambia."

 

GPU 6 Released on Presidential Pardon

Friday, September 4, 2009  

All six Gambian journalists who were Thursday August 6, convicted and imprisoned on six counts of defamation and sedition were yesterday, September 3 released on Presidential pardon.The six, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Emil Touray and Pa Modou Faal, GPU vice president, secretary general and treasurer respectively, Pap Saine and Ebou Sawaneh, Publisher and Editor of the Point Newspaper, Sam Sarr, Editor, Foroyaa newspaper who were released yesterday...

A new position of Executive Director is vacant

Tuesday, September 1, 2009  

A new position of Executive Director, Gambia Press Union Secretariat is vacant.

The position will be funded by the recently approved capacity building project “Media for development – Development for media”

 

GPU condemns conviction, imprisonment of six journalists

Wednesday, August 5, 2009  

The Gambia Press Union vehemently condemns the conviction, jailing and heavy fines, today of six Gambian journalists, three of whom are members of the Union Executive, Emil Touray; secretary general; Sarata Jabbi Dibba, vice president and Pa Modou Faal, treasurer; Pap Saine and Ebou Sawaneh, The Point’s publisher and editor respectively; And Sam Sarr, editor, Foroyaa newspaper.The group have been convicted of all six counts and sentenced to two...

Accused without Lawyers

Thursday, July 23, 2009  

Thursday, July 23, 2009This is an update on the situation of the seven Gambian journalists who are being prosecuted by the government of The Gambia on various charges of seditious publication and criminal defamation.

The seven; Ms Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Bai Emil Touray and Pa Modou Faal of the Gambia Press Union executive, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh of The Point newspaper and Sam Sarr and Abubacar Saidykhan of Foroyaa newspaper, appeared before...

The African Editors Forum is shocked

Wednesday, June 24, 2009  

The African Editors Forum (TAEF) is shocked at the behaviour of The Gambian government which has been detaining journalists almost everyday since the beginning of June. The detention spree was sparked by comments made by President Yahya Jammeh on May 22, in which he made disparaging remarks about continuing concern for the failed investigation into the death of Gambian journalism doyen Deyda Hyadara. Hyadara was killed by what is believed to be...

Seven GPU members granted bail

Monday, June 22, 2009  

Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi Dibba, Pa Modou Faal, together with Pap Saine, Ebou Sawaneh, Sam Sarr, Abubacarr Saidy Khan of The Point and Foroyaa newspapers were today granted bail by Magistrate Sainabou Wadda of the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court.

The seven GPU members charged with Conspiracy to publish seditious publication and publishing seditious information were Monday June 22, 2009 granted bail  at the sum of  D200, 000 each with two...

Release Chief Ebrima Manneh

Sunday, June 7, 2009  

Today, June 7th, 2008 marks two years since the “disappearance” of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a journalist at the Daily Observer Newspaper.

Despite several efforts by the Gambia Press Union, the media establishments and family members to trace his whereabouts the end of his disappearance is still not in sight. The Media Foundation for West Africa eventually took up the matter for his release before the ECOWAS Court.

Following a year long...

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