Gambia Press Union

GPU - background and vision

The Gambia Press Union, formed in 1978 is the umbrella body for journalists in The Gambia. 

The Union organises and seeks to empower journalists by lobbying and advocating for the rights of journalists, the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in The Constitution of The Gambia.

Release Chief Ebrima Manneh

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 protracted court case in which the Government of The Gambia was served many notices and five security officials subpoenaed to appear before the courts, Chief Manneh continued to languish in detention without any attempt by the state to conduct any investigation or appear before the ECOWAS Court to clear any doubts.

Relying on uncontroverted testimonies given by witnesses, the ECOWAS Court maintains that in July 2006, Chief Ebrima Manneh was picked up by plain clothes security officials at his place of work, the Daily Observer.

The ECOWAS Court has ordered for his immediate release and has awarded him compensation amounting to US$100,000

Today, as everyday, the Gambia Press Union wishes to call the attention of the government in particular and the public at large, to the decisions of the court.  We take this opportunity to call on the State to heed to the order of the ECOWAS Court for the immediate release of Chief Ebrima Manneh and to further compensate him with US$100,000.  Such actions will pave the way for an end to impunity and the restoration of public confidence especially of the private media.

We wish to point out that democracy cannot prevail and development remains unattainable without the participation of an independent, free and pluralistic press. The media has a crucial role to play in the good governance of democratic societies, by ensuring transparency and accountability, promoting participation and the rule of law, and contributing to the fight against poverty. 

The media, as a partner in development can bring about behaviour change and social mobilisation for effective and sustainable development through the dissemination of information that is crucial for the life and development of communities.

Signed, The GPU Executive

Note to Editors
Chief Ebrima Manneh until the time of his “disappearance” was a senior reporter at the Daily Observer Newspaper.  In July 2007 the Media Foundation for West Africa sought legal redress through the ECOWAS Courts and on 5 July 2008 the Court ordered for his immediate release and his compensation with a sum of 100,000 dollars.

US Senate: Manneh is a prisoner of conscience

"Release the Reporter," the US Senate addresses the Gambian President. Read the comments in this PDF-file.


GPU Exec Pays Courtesy Call on Speaker

The Executive of The Gambia Press Union, Thursday July 3rd 2008 paid a courtesy call on Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay, Speaker of the National Assembly.

Ndey Tapha Sosseh, President, Gambia Press Union, expressed pleasure with the reception at the National Assembly and said that the Call was aimed at cementing the already existing cordial relationship between the private press and the Legislature.

The GPU leader raised key areas of concern between Press/Legislature relations highlighting the issue of access especially during ceremonial state functions at the Assembly and made proposals that would enhance and ease access for coverage of National Assembly proceedings.

As NAMS representing both the ruling and opposition parties were present, Ms Sosseh took the opportunity to remind them that it is their responsibility to keep the Executive in check and that as representatives of The Gambian people, the National Assembly is the forum to raise and address issues of concern to the Gambian populace. She further lamented the GPU’s concern that issues of freedom of expression and the security of journalists/media workers have not yet been raised at the National Assembly with specific references to the continued detention of Chief Ebrima Manneh despite the ECOWAS Court orders for his immediate release and to compensate him with US$100,000 dollars and the investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara.

The GPU President also called on National Assembly Members to support the promotion of media friendly laws and not to pass legislation that will serve as a stumbling block to freedom of expression.

She however stated that the GPU and its membership are equally committed to the development The Gambia and that in informing the Gambian populace, they have a crucial role to play.

GPU advisors Sam Sarr and Swaebou Conateh, editors of the Foroyaa Newspaper and The Gambia News and Report Magazine reiterated comments and concerns raised by the GPu President.

In response, Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay, Speaker of the National Assembly said she was surprised that the issue of access was raised as they “are not aware of any incident” in relation to coverage and or access to the House and assured the GPU Executive that such problems would not exist if all media houses are fully and properly accredited to cover proceedings.

She echoed earlier views of the Minority Leader that the issue of Chief Ebrima Manneh was sub judicial thus could not be mentioned at the House.  Declaring that she was not holding brief for the Executive, she lamented the non-cooperation of the public regarding the Deyda Hydara investigations and attributed the slow pace to this.

Acknowledging that as politicians they needed the media to sell their ideologies, the Speaker disclosed that the National Assembly had secured a training package for Parliamentary Reporters and that provision was made for a “State of the Art Media Centre” within the premises of the Assembly.

Speaking earlier Momodou Sanneh, Minority Leader and Member for Kiang West commended the GPU Executive for “being bold and open enough” to raise their issues of concern with the National Assembly. 

He further informed them that the Chief Ebrima Manneh issue was not raised at the National Assembly as Court Matters are not mentioned in the House. 

Also present at the meeting were several National Assembly members.

GPU celebrates World Press Freedom Day

As part of activities marking World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, the Gambia Press Union Saturday held a symposium on the theme, “Freedom of Expression, Access and Empowerment” at the Alliance Franco Gambienne.
Halifa Sallah, a researcher cum author is deliver a paper on the theme of the symposium. Representing Gabriel Baglo, Director of the International Federation of Journalists, Dakar Office,  Pa Lious Thomasi gave a lecture on the theme “The Journalist as an Endangered Species”. The book, “A Living Mirror, The Life of Deyda Hydara” on the life and works of the slain editor of the Point Newspaper, Deyda Hydara and The GPU Newsletter were also launched on the same day.
Celebrated throughout the world, May 3rd, World Press Freedom day, is a day to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

The date was chosen by the UN General Assembly in 1993, following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.

World Press Freedom day serves to remind citizens of the importance of press freedom - that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

The day also provides media practitioners the opportunity to critically look at the issues that are impeding freedom of expression and look at ways of engaging states and other stakeholders in improving environment within which the media operates.

Chief Manneh Still Missing

Ebriba Manneh
F. Jaw Manneh

Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh of the Daily Observer who was last seen when he reported for work on July 7, 2006 is still missing.

Despite several attempts by his family, the GPU, concerned international organisations to locate his whereabouts or to get the State to release him as there have been claims of sightings of him at various Police Stations across the country, State Security Apparatus’ deny knowledge of his whereabouts or continued detention.

In June 2007, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), filed a complaint at the sub-regional Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria to compel the Gambia Government to unconditionally release Manneh or to answer for his arrest and subsequent detention.

Judgment on the case which was expected to be delivered on January 31, 2007 has been deferred several times as key witnesses (2 National Intelligence Agents alleged to have arrested Manneh and five other state security personnel) from The Gambia have failed to appear before the Courts despite summons’ sent to them through the Gambia High Commission in Abuja.
The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and all forms of expression.

Fatou Jaw Manneh’s Trial continues
The protracted sedition trial of Fatou Jaw Manneh, a Gambian journalist based in the United States Wednesday, April … continued before principal Magistrate Buba Jawo of the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court.

GPU gets new executive

On Saturday March 22, the general body of the Gambia Press Union massively elected outgoing Secretary General, Ndey Tapha Sosseh into the office of president. 

Ms Sosseh emerged winner follwoing a caontest against the The Point’s Ebrima Sawaneh.  The two were nominated when Madi Ceesay, outgoing President announced at the Union’s triennial Congress Saturday that he would not run for a second term.

The President elect told journalists that her executive would focus on “ capacity building and intensive training programmes for journalists, self regulation in the industry, a constitutional (GPU) review and championing the cause of press freedom.
The members of the new GPU executive include first and second vice president, Momodou Nyan and Sarata Jabbie Dibba; Secretary General, Emil Touray; first and second Assistant Secretary General, Lamin Njie and Madi Njie; Treasurer, Pa Modou Faal; And two copted members , Amie Sanneh and Buya Jammeh.
The Congress, chaired by Swaebou Conateh was held at the President’s Awards Scheme Bakau and elections were conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission.

GPU pays Courtesy Call

Aja Isatou Saidy

The newly elected executive of The Gambia Press Union Wednesday paid a courtesy call on the National Security Council at the Vice President’s Office in State House.

Responding to issues and concerns raised by the Union Executive, the Vice President, Aja Isatou Saidy said over the years, the media and the government have distanced each other due to mistrust on both sides adding that a lot needs to be done by both parties to improve the relationship.

Assuring the GPU Executive that investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara are still ongoing, The Security Council said they did not know the whereabouts of Chief Ebrima Manneh

On the issue of security, the Vice President said "it should be a concern to all Gambians" and lamented that although the security services are "trying. They are overstretched and overworked." Citing Particular attacks on members of the Security Council which are yet to be resolved, members of the Council said unresolved cases are not peculiar to journalists and the media fraternity.

Madam Njie Saidy then advised that the Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology to work with the Union on issues of access, capacity building and the training of journalists.

"We don’t look down on the Fourth Estate, Civil Society Organisations and NGOs as we know they are here to compliment the efforts of the government. We need each other," she concluded.

Highlighting the importance of the Courtesy Call, Abdou Karim Sonko, Permanent Secretary, Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology said the courtesy call is very important as "we are all playing the same role trying to achieve the same objective.

Commenting on government media relations, he said there has been a lot of friction between the media and the government particularly the security agencies and added that there is a need to have a tolerable relationship. He then commended the GPU for efforts made in trying to work with the government.

Speaking earlier, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, President, GPU thanked the Security Council for meeting with the Executive and commended its efforts towards maintaining cordial relations with the Media.

She however lamented the lack of progress on investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara, the case of missing Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and the closure of Sud FM, Citizen FM. Citizen Newspaper and the Independent Newspaper by security personnel without court orders. She encouraged the Council to look at possible ways of solving and or intervening to address these issues.

She concluded by expressing the hope that these discussions will inspire the way forward towards a fruitful relationship between the Fourth Estate and the Government.

Other speakers Swaebou Conateh, Sam Sarr, Emil Touray and Madi Ceesay all buttressed these sentiments and further called on other Government departments, particularly the Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology to ease access to information for journalists. They lamented that without access to the other side of the story, it would be difficult to give balanced reporting.

Also present at the meeting where Security Chiefs and representatives of the Department of State for Justices and Defence.

Gambia Press Union
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