Aug 26, 2008, 7:00 AM
The press, be it local or international has a great deal of benefit on the society that makes life works by its elegant choices of keeping people informed and educated in things that happen around them and beyond them. The world over the weekend gathered together to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day and Gambia as a sovereign nation was not left behind in the celebration at the Alliance Franco Gambienne premises on Kairaba Avenue.
Augustine Kanjia picks the bits and pieces on the press and focuses on the deliberations of the different speakers at the event.
After a very eloquent speech delivered on behalf of Gabriel I. Gbaglo, the president of the IFJ West African Bureau, based in Dakar who has always comes to celebrate such days with Gambian journalists, was in Maputo to celebrate the same Day with their colleagues. Louie Thomasi, the representative said in those days one would report and be damned but now report and be killed. He talked about the many killings of journalists in the world and the shooting and killing of Deyda Hydara of The Gambia and called on people to see journalists as partners. He mentioned the many detentions of journalists in the world and said Eritrea is the worst country for journalists and Gambia is named as one of the countries with the highest number of journalists on exile. Other areas he said their killings were too much. "Eritrea has no private media." The muzzling of journalists he said has to be stopped and journalists should do their work in peace without hindrance. "We are working assiduously to change the situation. We are speaking to relevant authorities to see reason to stop impunity against journalists. "Journalists are the most endangered species in recent times." He remembered one of their fallen colleagues in the like of Deyda Hydara whose coward murderers are yet to be brought to book for the heinous crime against an honest son of the land and a superb journalist whose work challenged a lot of burning issues leading to his untimely assassination by cowards in the cover of the dark. He quoted the lines recited by the Late Deyda Hydara before his then programme at the Radio Syd: "Il est minuit, le temps vient de faire son oeuvre, un jour s'en est alle, un autre jour vien de naitre, avec ses paines. Mais nous chers auditeurs, nous vous souhaitons bonjour."
Ba Tarawally in his contribution said, journalists are to blame. "Journalists are not united and they should be united to for a better cause." The judiciary is often not fair to the journalist. The police he said were another set that are there to capture journalist whether right or wrong. "They should resist and do the right thing." He said.
Mr. Jallow, the Administrator at the Gambia Press Union, suggested that GPU sets up media council. He said the journalism profession is the luckiest. "People can come from school straight to the newsroom and becomes a journalist."
Madi MK Ceesay, the former GPU president and Director of the Media Agenda, registered his dissatisfaction about the closure of four media outlets, the Independent Newspaper, Citizen FM, Sud FM and . "We are not celebrating but mourning. I could be killed nothing would come out of it, you could be killed nothing will as well come out of it as par indication. We need to do something about this."
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, the opposition UDP leader said all concentration is on physical harassment. On the potent of any journalist, you may have 100 journalists who can't perform their journalism properly, they are endangered. "The profession should be unified. The Gambia Press Union has not stood up to fight for the many problems. What are you doing? I think in the circumstances of hopelessness, you may ask government to let go of journalist Fatou Jaw Manneh's case. But Press Union has to stand up and do more." Lawyer said.
Swaibou Conateh, a veteran journalist and the editor - in - chief of the News and Report Magazine, suggested for journalists to study the law more to be able to properly interpret it and do more.
Louie Thomasi felling compassion over issues brought up about Gambian journalists says, "We are doing our best. We have been issuing letters and have sent it to the Gambian president as well. "The journalists should emancipate themselves from mental slavery. It is not all who work for a newspaper that are journalists." He says.
Halifa Sallah then dilated on the main theme: Freedom of Expression, Access and Empowerment. He called journalists to unite and form a common force but disunity he said was not good for them. He says, "The people should protect the journalist. We should use this day to highlight their problems and help GPU to enhance the dignity of the journalist."
He further says, "Many tyrants have come and gone. Many tyrants will go from our continent but the pen will stay, for the pen is mightier than the sword."
OJ Jallow, the veteran politician says, "Many thought after the GPU Congress that there would no more be a GPU but here you are still going on strong." When others are killed journalist talk and make it known for action but when journalists are killed everyone is mute. The press OJ said is the leading voice which should be inculcated in people. "The moment the people become afraid the government it becomes a despotic government. When the government becomes afraid of the people then it is democracy. There is no political success without using the press, the press that is not recognized by the government. They are suppressed, our African governments are intolerant. Until there are divergent views we can't be glad, let us forget about egoism."
Lawyer Alimamy Taal noticed that there were a lot of silly stories on newspapers and said it was due to the lack of empowerment. Journalists should be really prepared to face the challenges, they need the light. They are not going to be ruled by the gun or those with the law in their hands.
Sheick Lewis said issues have been raised to protect journalist but "have we challenged ourselves? When we invite people to come to such programmes it is only the opposition that turns up. We need to dialogue. Many in the government have been journalists in the past. Who is protecting the journalist? The young journalists will run or be quiet if the seniors are caught or killed. We need to empower them or else I will join them to run away from the field.
Ousman Yabo said they've been waiting too long to do something for the backlog of offences against the journalist.
Ida Jallow blamed Gambian journalists for accepting a lot of things happening especially from some media houses and that the Gambian journalist is not protected in the hands of a few.
Journalsits said a lot to keep them thinking and to awaken the populace to protect their own journalist because they are out to empower the populace.
The GPU under the leadership of Ndey Taffa Sosseh, has launched a newsletter carrying news and views launched by Suaki Bojang. The president (Ndey Taffa Sosseh) showed his appreciation to those that graced the occasion and thanked those who did all that they could to make it a success. She said it was left with the journalism fraternity to move forward from what they have heard.
"A living Mirror" a book on the life of Deyda Hydara by Aloa Ahmed Alota and Demba A. Jawo was launched and the proceeds go to Deyda Hydara Foundation. Pap Saine, Editor in-chief and co-proprietor of the Point Newspaper bought the highest number of copies in solidarity with its cause.