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Halifa Sallah Hails Imprisoned Editors

Aug 31, 2009, 4:48 AM | Article By: Alieu Jabang

Mr. Halifa Sallah, a renowned sociologist and a close associate of the imprisoned Editor of Foroyaa Newspaper, Sam Sarr, has described both Sam Sarr and Pap Saine as 'brave and responsible leaders'.

According to the renowned Gambian sociologist, "leadership comes with the preparation to accept responsibility when the going is rough and tough."

Praising encomiums on the duo, he said "a leader must never despair. He or she must never fear to make necessary sacrifices. A leader must surmount every difficulty to be absolved by times and circumstances. Pap showed the world that he would own up to his deeds, regardless of the peril or cost".

As he put it, Pap had stated without any hesitation or ambiguity that he authorised the publication of the statement of the President of the Gambia Press Union and that of the President of the Republic in the Point Newspaper in the interest of press freedom, as enshrined in Article19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Mr. Sallah, who is currently overseeing the Foroyaa Newspaper in the absence of its Managing Editor, Mr Sam Sarr, was speaking in an exclusive interview with this reporter at his office in Churchill's Town, Serekunda.

Mr. Sallah stated that the Point boss also told the court that he did not conspire with Sam Sarr or anyone, but had published the article on his own free will. He said Sam Sarr also told the court that he would have failed in his duties, if he did not publish divergent views and dissenting opinions.

He said Sam Sarr emphasised that he alone made the decision on publishing the article and had not conspired with anyone to publish the statement of the President of the Gambia Press Union as a reaction to the opinions expressed by the President of the Republic on Deyda's murder.

Mr. Sallah, who is also the spokesperson of the opposition National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) used the occasion to console the management and staff of the Point Newspaper for the imprisonment of their dear Managing Editor and others, for publishing a statement in the Point and Foroyaa Newspapers, which he said, was seen as seditious and defamatory and consequently landed them to jail.

"I wish to take this opportunity to show our solidarity with the management, staff and readers of the Point Newspaper. It is touching that one of the co-founders of the Point Newspaper is murdered, while the other co-founder is imprisoned for publishing a statement associated with his murder, which in the eyes of the judge is defamatory and seditious," he said.

In the view of Mr Sallah, it is interestingly enough to see Pap Saine found guilty for what was published in the Foroyaa Newspaper and Sam Sarr for what was published in the Point Newspaper as conspirators.

"Interestingly enough, Pap Saine was found guilty for what was published in Foroyaa under count 4 and Sam Sarr was found guilty on what was published in Point as conspirators," he stated.

"In that respect, the two Managing Editors are tied by a common destiny of being prisoners of conscience for defending press freedom. I hope the media family in the world would see the need to give them awards for showing their great commitment to press freedom by demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice their personal liberty in its defence,''he posited.

On what they would do next, he replied that they have filed an appeal against the decision of the judgement.

"An appeal has been filed by Counsel Lamin Camara. I hope the speed it took to try the case will also be marshalled to hear the appeal. We are waiting up to Monday to find out when the case has been scheduled," he emphasised.

In demonstrating his interest in securing the release of the 6 journalists, Sallah said he has been calling for initiatives which could have persuasive influence on the President to release the 6 journalists since he has the constitutional to do so.

In his own words, Halifa said the reason being that it is best for him (the President) to facilitate the release of the 6 journalists as, according to him, the whole issue resolves around Deyda's murder.

"The President commented on the murder. The President of the Gambia Press Union reacted to the statement. Point and Foroyaa published both statements. The consequence of the court action is that 6 journalist are imprisoned, while the murderer/murderers of Deyda Hydara are still at large," he added.

This, he said, is a situation that no one on earth can contemplate without being concerned. "This is why all human beings of conscience, regardless of party affiliation or opinion of the media should add their voice so that we could put an end to this sad picture of journalism in the country," he concluded.