#Article (Archive)

Don't try to silence the voice of the people!

Jun 13, 2011, 12:19 PM

It is disturbing that a senior journalist from The Point has been called by a senior government official, in fact a Permanent Secretary, and told that his organisation should not carry out the function for which it was established.

We refer to the fact that our Lamin Drammeh, Deputy Sports Editor, was told that the paper should hold on to a story, published in today's issue, regarding the grievances of the senior national team players over unpaid allowances, after taking part in a friendly game against Gabon last Tuesday.

Furious players of the senior national team, who returned to Banjul at the weekend on the back of a 1-nil win over Gabon, held a press conference at the Seaview Hotel on Friday afternoon to voice out their anger and frustration to the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

They expressed their total disappointment with regard to the non-payment of their match allowances, which they said the Sports ministry promised to do when they arrive in Gabon.

We are all living witnesses to the negotiations between the players, officials of the team and the ministry over match bonuses, in which the players were convinced to go and promised that their match bonuses will be paid to them in Gabon.

This was just few days ago, when the team left Banjul for Gabon.

Now that the team is back home victorious, their match bonuses are yet to be paid, and we are being told not to carry that story.

The Point is a newspaper, and it has the responsibility to its readers and the general public to report not only what is said in a public forum, but also to report on issues of national interest without bias or fear.

In this case, the forum was a press conference called by the players themselves to express their grievances.

Though playing for the national team is a national issue, which requires the players to be prepared to make sacrifices sometimes, it is our humble view that the Sports ministry in Banjul should have been straight and open with the players over why the delay in paying their match allowances.

It is the right of the players to raise their concerns in the way they did, and it is the duty of The Point to publish those concerns.

We all know that people in this nation struggle every day, and work hard to feed themselves and their families.

It is our view that players too cannot also leave this country and their families behind, to go on national duties without leaving any money with their families back home, most of whom rely on them for their daily subsistence.

Another part to this issue is that the general public relies on the media to report what is happening in this country, and we believe that everything said at that press conference is a matter for the public record.

The Gambian public must have access to it, because it concerns their national team.

To deny the media the right to report what has been said in a public forum is an attempt to hinder or restrict free speech, and freedom of the press.

We as journalists have a duty to report what has been said, and nothing and nobody should interfere with this.

What is published in The Point is the fact and nothing else, even if the truth appears not to go down well with the Permanent Secretary concerned.

In our view, the paper and the journalist in question did their job well in reflecting accurately the grievances of members of the country's senior national team, who were on national duty.

They should not be criticized for doing this; instead, they should be praised and thanked. 

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves."
William Hazlitt