#Article (Archive)

Justice is Served!

May 21, 2008, 5:41 AM

It is with a happy heart that we extend our sincere congratulations to Mam Sait Ceesay, former State House Press Officer, who this week walked out of the courtroom a completely free man. He was acquitted and discharged by the Banjul Magistrates' Court on all the counts preferred against him by the authorities.

Mr Ceesay was standing trial before Senior Magistrate Kayode on charges of false publication and broadcasting, contrary to section 181(A) of the criminal code, cap 10 volume 3, Laws of The Gambia. Mr Ceesay was accused of publishing to and through Daily Observer that Alex Dacosta was appointed DPPR, Office of the President.

This accusation proved to be completely unfounded and fell apart under the scrutiny of a court of law. This is justice.

Delivering the ruling, Senior Magistrate Kayode stated, "On the evidence before the court, I found that there is no doubt that indeed there is evidence of false publication and broadcasting. The issue however is who exactly is responsible. Can it be said that the text message constitutes a publication or a broadcasting or simply a request for information?" the Senior Magistrate enquired rhetorically. He said it is a fact that a question mark at the end of every sentence denotes nothing but a question seeking information or clarification.

This is of course a statement of the purest fact. It leads one to ask the question why this case was brought in the first place? Was this a case that should have been brought by the state at all, or was it simply a civil matter between the person named in the article and the newspaper that published it? This is what would have been the case in most European countries. In the United States there would have been no more about the incorrect story except perhaps a clarification in a later issue. These are the kinds of media laws we need in this country. The British system is extremely effective at preventing false publication that damages a person's reputation but it is a private matter and not one that the state involves itself in. This is the way it should be.

One very interesting statement, containing a very interesting question, was made by Magistrate Kayode and really should be answered. It is as follows. "I also found that it is both surprising and shocking that the police, having investigated the case, having read the text message, decided to chase shadows when Dr Taal, the substance, was there to be chased?"

This case has raised more questions than it has answered. The one benefit which has hopefully come of it is that maybe it might reopen the debate with regard to media law in The Gambia. There is a need for radical reform of media laws in this country hopefully this case will be a catalyst in bringing it about.

"The price of justice is eternal publicity."

Arnold Bennett