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Ramadan Without Pap Saine

Aug 25, 2009, 2:12 PM

This is the first Ramadan, since the inception of The Point in December 1991, which Pap Saine is not observing with us. Ramadan observance is a big affair within The Point family. All staff members, including non-Muslim, traditionally break the fast at the offices. A variety of food is provided so much so that there is more than enough to eat and drink. In all of this, Pap Saine would play a key role, particularly after the gruesome yet-unsolved murder of the Deyda Hydara on 16 December 2004.

Pap Saine was particularly concerned about the prayers, making sure everyone observed them with decorum and dignity. He would take time to perform his ablutions to cleanse himself of any impurity as he prepared to say his prayers. It is a special month for him.

Why Pap Saine is not observing this Ramadan with us is known to everybody. He was together with five other journalists (Sarata-Jabbi-Dibba), Ebrima Sawaneh, Sam Sarr, Pa Modou Faal and Bai Emil Touray) sent to jail on 6 August 2009. Pap Saine and Sam Sarr had published the reaction of the Gambia Press Union to statements made by President Jammeh on the late Deyda Hydara. The High Court adjudicated a portion of the GPU reaction to be seditious and defamatory and convicted the six journalists accordingly.

Both Saine and Sarr affirmed at the trial without apology to anyone that they published the GPU reaction in accordance with the journalistic canon of the right of reply and in defence of freedom of expression.Where is the shame in doing one's job ethically?

Mr Saine would have very much loved to observe this Ramadan with us and his family; likewise the other journalists who are in prison with him. But we are convinced that right there in jail he and the others are, as much circumstances permit, fulfilling this religious obligation in their own difficult and small way. And we hope he is enjoying it as much as we are.

In a way, it is a blessing that the imprisonment coincided with the Ramadan, a holy month for Muslim during which they are to dedicate themselves to prayers, mediation and charity. It offers everyone an opportunity to reflect on the plight of the journalists and to look at the big picture. And what is the big picture? It is the unsolved murder of DeydaHydara. More than anytime since the brutal killing in December 2004, the jailing of the journalists has placed the Deyda Hydara murder in greater and more intense international focus. It is a time for us to reflect on the sanctity of life and on why custodians of power should do their utmost to protect it against senseless attacks. It is also time to meditate on the many and varied appeals that have been made on behalf of the six jailed journalists and do something about them.

To Pap Saine, Sam Sarr, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Ebrima Sawaneh, Pa Modou Faal and Bai Emil Touray, we say a resounding Ramadan Mubarak!

"Man is honoured by his heart and not by his opinions"

Christoph Johann Schiller