#Article (Archive)

Freed At Last

Sep 4, 2009, 5:00 AM

It was on a hot Thursday (6 August 2009) afternoon that Pap Saine, Sam Sarr, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Bai Emil Touray, Pa Modou Faal and Ebrima Sawaneh were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. It was a big blow to the media fraternity. Never in the history of Gambia journalism had so many journalists been sent to jail at the same time. As journalists, we took the tragedy in our stride as an occupational hazard. Because it was such a harrowing experience, we termed that fateful day as BLACK THURSDAY.

But by some twist or quirk of fate, it was on a cool and mild Thursday night that the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) beamed to the entire world that the President of the Republic of The Gambia Sheikh, Prof, Dr, Alhajie Yahya Jammeh had pardoned the six jailed journalists. For a while, we thought were in a dream, as Ebrima Baldeh, announced the news highlights. But as he read out the details of the story, there were shouts of joy, with journalists, friends of the media, families of the jailed journalists and all people of conscience went wild with ecstasy, hugging and backslapping each other. It was the best and sweetest and greatest news that we have received since BLACK THURSDAY. As a result, we have decided to term in like manner Thursday, 3 September 2009 as WHITE THURSDAY -  a new beginning for Gambia journalism.

So the eclipse is over and the sun shines again. We must thank President Yahya Jammeh for exercising his prerogative of mercy in granting presidential pardon to our six colleagues who have been in jail for the past 29 days. In his show of magnanimity, the President said that he pardoned the six journalists in the spirit of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of piety and forgiveness. The defining spirit of the Ramadan is forgiveness. So it is also in the same spirit of the Ramadan that we heartily say to His Excellency, Ramadan Mubarak.

We eagerly look forward to reuniting with our colleagues in the spirit of solidarity and responsibility and purposefulness. It is a reunion that will give a deeper and greater meaning to journalism, as we know it. As usual, we shall be guided by the ethical standards of fairness, balance, objectivity and impartiality. And as Pap Saine has always said, the media and the state are partners in development.

We could not have survived the past harrowing 29 days without the solidarity and good will of countless friends, colleagues and relatives. They shared our sorrow with us, so they also have every right to share our joy with us. We are eternally grateful to the international media fraternity for its unflagging support throughout our trying moment. We are also eternally grateful to the civil society in The Gambia for their concern and solidarity. Words are not enough to express our grateful to the Gambian people who stood behind us through prayers and kind words and kind thoughts.

Once again, to His Excellency President Yahya Jammeh, we say a big thank-you for this act of mercy.