Jan 4, 2011, 11:57 AM
The newly elected executive of Gambia Press Union (GPU) was recently informed by members of the Security Council that investigations into the murder of Deyda Hydara, the late Managing Editor of The Point newspaper, are still ongoing but hastened to add that they did not know the whereabouts of Chief Ebrima Manneh, the Daily Observer reporter who disappeared from the public since 2006. These were revealed during the new GPU executive's courtesy call in the Vice President's Office in State House.
Responding to issues and concerns raised by the GPU executive, the Vice President, Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, said that over the years, the media and the government have distanced from each other due to mistrust on both sides, adding that a lot needs to be done by both parties to improve the relationship.
On the issue of security, the Vice President said: "It should be a concern to all Gambians" lamenting 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 that 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 that there has been a lot of friction between the media and the government, particularly the security agencies, adding 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, GPU President, thanked the Security Council for meeting with the Executive and commended its efforts towards maintaining cordial relations with the media.
She however bemoaned the lack of progress in the 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 were closed down 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 the discussions will illuminate 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 dwelt on the same concerns 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 were security chiefs and representatives of the Departments of State for Justice and Defence.