#Article (Archive)


Mar 26, 2008, 1:18 PM

Mr Chair

Members of the High Table


It is indeed, a pleasure and an honour to witness the fifth triennial congress of the GPU as secretary general.Many of our colleagues who were voted in with us are out of the country in some circumstances against their wish, so I am privileged to have been able to ride the rough and stormy seas.

The three years of our tenure have been very eventful.We have witnessed very negative attitudes and trends towards the media and press freedom in The Gambia.However, there have also been very positive developments i.e the setting up of new print media houses in country, online Gambian newspapers, a Gambian online radio station and the proliferation of private fm and community radio stations country wide.

We acknowledge in good faith the recent keen demonstration of interest in the Union's activities, zeal and willingness on the part of the membership to take ownership by making efforts to take part in this most important activity, the Congress.We do hope that it would end today but that members, old and new alike would find it within themselves to give off their time and resources to strengthen the Union and the Executive to be chosen today to be able to achieve its goals.

On behalf of the GPU executive, I wish to once again welcome all of you and wish us all fruitful deliberations.

In the past 36 months, the GPU has been highly visible and active in a number of areas.


Elections Coverage

A total of 77 journalists from various print media houses, community radio stations and the state broadcasters were trained to prepare them to play an effective role in election reporting in the presidential elections of September 2006, the National Assembly Elections of January 2007 and the recent Local Government Elections.

The training, which took place in September 06, December 06 and January 07 covered topics such as Covering Elections, Elections Reporting and Voters Voice Reporting.

Trainers and experts were drawn from the IEC, media practitioners in the country, Dakar and Ghana.The activities were mainly funded by the US Embassy, Games and the GPU

C2C missions

In December 2007, two colleagues from GAMES Ms. Camilla and Mr. Fleming were fielded for a weeklong training in editorial management and radio reporting. The Editors of The Point and Foroyaa participated in the Editorial Management training and the Studio Manager from City Limits Radio participated in the Radio Reporting training. A total of six participants 2 participants from each of the print media and two from the electronic media participated. After the practical training, a workshop was organized to share experiences and to put into practice what was learnt during the training.

Between, January 17thto 24thJanuary, 2008, a Danish colleague and member of Games Ms. Kirsten Jensen provided accounts keeping tutorial support to GPU administrator and assisted in the identification of an external auditor.

At the same time, two Danish Journalists, Ms. Irmelin Vergas and Mr. Birger Ageraard trained reporters from Foroyaa, The Point, Gambia News and Report and the Daily Express on Field Reporting and Online Journalism.A total number of 12 participants were trained and a workshop, attended by reporters from the various participating media houses was held at the end of the weeklong training.

A total number of 6 participants from The Point, Foroyaa and Gambia News and Report benefited from training in Journalism and Photo Journalism from March 6thto March 13th2008.The training was conducted by two colleagues; Ms. Eva Dalgaard Adreassen for Journalism and Mr. Trols Norlem for Photo Journalism. After the practical training, a workshop which drew participants from various media houses was organized.

In November/December 2007 Birger Agergaard of Games and Ager Media hosts of the GPU website trained the secretary general in Website Management.

Three journalists from The Point, Foroyaa and The Nation were sent to Egypt for a month long training in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Future Training

The fifth C2C Mission of the Games/GPU partnership is due to take place between March 27thand April 3rd, 2008.This mission entails two training sessions on Lay-Out and Editorial Management. The Editorial Management training will be a follow-up to earlier training that was conducted in November, 2007. Three Newspapers; The Point, Foroyaa and the Gambia News and Report have been identified to participate in the training.

Another mentoring mission is due in June-July 2008 but the dates are yet to be confirmed.The GPU executive, the project supervisor and administrator, under provisions made for in the GPU/Games partnership project are meant to visit another country in the sub region on a study tour.However, this has not yet taken place as the executive feels that these resources would be better utilized to build on the capacity of the secretariat and for training.It proposed that a press union expert from the sub-region visit, play a mentor role and train executive members on advocacy and fund raising.The modalities for this are yet to be worked out and agreed upon by all parties - Games/GPU and the funders, Danida.

In May 2007, the press expert of the WAJACapacityBuilding and Empowerment Project contacted the GPU regarding short term (5 day) training activity for 30 participants on the Basics of Journalism.All the logistics were drafted and sent to WAJA by end June 2007, the training is yet to take place as WAJA is yet to confirm dates for The Gambia.


Deyda Hydara Foundation

In May 2006, the GPU, the CSO Coalition, AAITG and patrons and friends of the GPU launched the Deyda Hydara Foundation at the Alliance Franc Gambienne in memory of a fallen comrade,Deyda Hydara, co-propreitor and founder of The Point Newspaper who was gunned down on December 16, 2004.

A constitution was drawn up by a committee, comprising members of the GPU Executive, GPU advisors and members of the Civil Society Coalition to guide the activities of the Foundation.The Foundation has its own account which will be officially handed over to the board upon its inauguration.Board members are to consist of representatives of the Hydara family, the CSO Coalition, GPU and a legal person.

Media Monitoring

In December 2006, the GPU embarked on a media monitoring exercise for the National Assembly Elections of January 2007.The six week activity funded by the UNDP enabled the GPU to recruit from its membership and also further helped to build the capacity of the institution.

At the end of the project, all heads of media houses were invited to a one day validation workshop at the NaNa Conference Hall to discuss the findings of the exercise.Again, turn out was very low with only two heads of media houses Foroyaa and News and Report, a few reporters and officials of the UNDP.

A PC, two television sets, one dvd/vhs recorder, two tape recorders, a printer and other office stationery were acquired as part of the project and thereafter became the property of the GPU.

Cyber Café

To boost the income generating capacity of the GPU, the IFJ in 2006 set up a Cyber Café with wireless internet connectivity at the GPU Secretariat.

Although the GPU has run several televised and newspaper adverts inviting GPU members and the general public to use the facility at a cheap rate of D10 for 45 minutes for members and 30 minutes for non-members, income from the cyber café is still very minimal as it sometimes operates for weeks without a customer.

However, it has facilitated access for GPU staff and the Executive and eased communications between the GPU and its partners, donors and friends.Also, training is now mostly conducted at the GPU Secretariat due to the availability of facilities of the Cyber Café.

Computers for the Cyber Café were provided by FreeVoice.Other costs were covered by the IFJ and connectivity is currently paid for by the Games/GPU Partnership Project.

Games/GPU partnership

In November 2007, the GPU signed a two year partnership agreement with the Gambia Media Support (GAMES) to promote the development of Gambian news media and press freedom in The Gambia.

GAMES received financial assistance on behalf of the GPU for a pilot project from DANIDA, a Danish NGO supported by the Danish Government.The project's main aim will be sought through the building and strengthening of the capacities of media practitioners both print and electronic in the areas of editorial management, radio reporting, field reporting, online journalism, web mastering, journalism, photo journalism, and lay-out.

It is also seeks to build the professional capacities of both the Gambian and Danish colleagues through sparring, exchange of experiences, coaching, training in everyday working situations. In addition, the project aims to build a long lasting collegial network between the Gambian media practitioners and their Danish/European colleagues.

The project implementation entails the fielding of colleagues from Denmark through training sessions, workshops, seminars and related activities.All these activities will be undertaken through colleague to colleague missions.And, the experience gained from the c2c missions will be used to develop and implement a long-term media development and training of trainer's project.

The project is coordinated by the GPU Project coordinator and the project funds are also used for the payment of salaries of the administrator, the coordinator and support staff. Salaries of the secretary and office cleaner/messenger have been increased through project funds.

Printing Press

Following the burning down of the Independent Newspaper Printing presses in, difficulty in accessing printing machines by existing media houses and the setting up of new newspaper houses, printing, its affordability and the timely distribution of newspapers was proving to be a problem thus, in order to ease access of the private media to printing facilities, the GPU thought it fitting to intervene by applying for funding of a printing press through the US Embassy.

The approach to the acquisition of a printer was two pronged, the GPU was also in dire financial constraints and this was seen as an opportunity to use proceeds from the commercial activities of the printing press to maintain the day-to-day operational costs of the GPU Secretariat.

The GPU Executive unanimously agreed to house the Printing Press at The Point Newspaper as at the time, they had printing limitations.An MOU signed between the GPU and The Point clearly specified that The Point, would allow other media houses access to the printer, and that proceeds, totaling 40 per cent of monies received once The Point removed operational costs belonged to the GPU.

However, the printer didn't accrue the necessary funds to make any meaningful positive change for the Union and, The Point had also survived its printing problems thus did not necessarily need to house the printing press.

The Printing Press was moved in October is currently housed by Today Newspaper.A revised MOU signed by both parties also highlights access for other media houses. Payment terms have been revisited and a fixed amount is payable to the GPU yearly, this would cover the Union's rent and other operational costs.


The Secretariat

Accessing funds for administrative purposes has been difficult.The Executive wrongly believed that members monthly dues coupled with funds accrued from the printing press donated by the US Embassy in March 2006 would enable the Union comfortably pay its office rent, recruit an administrator and manage the day-to-day operational costs of the secretariat.This however did not materialize as the printer did not generate the funds estimated.At times, members of the Executive and its advisors had to contribute to the payment of electricity and telephone bills.

For the first time, the GPU paid its rent with proceeds from the printer in March 2008.It is envisaged that the new printer arrangements, being more favourable to the GPU would over time, serve the purpose for which it was intended.

The computer, two television sets, one dvd/vhs recorder, two tape recorders, a printer and other office stationary acquired as part of the UNDP media monitoring project have boosted the office of the administrator.The printer, connected to all computers in the secretariat has also been very useful especially during training sessions.

All computers in the secretariat also have internet access due to the wireless internet connection.

Internet access and all telephone/fax lines at the secretariat are operational.Initially, following disconnection due to lack of funds, the IFJ intervened and reconnected these.Internet connectivity is now catered for under the GPU/Games Partnership.

Following requests to the IFJ for institutional support in January 2006 and prior consultations in December 2005, the IFJ in May 2006 provided funds for the acquisition of a Heavy Duty Photocopier, a Laser Jet Printer, a fax machine and a steel filing cabinet.These funds were also used to upgrade the secretariats internet connection to ADSL.

Staff of the Secretariat

The Administrator

When the GPU Executive took office in March 2005, an area of urgent priority was the recruitment of a competent and experienced administrator to man the Secretariat, however, the unavailability of funds made it difficult to actualize.

Former GPU president DA Jawo voluntarily served as GPU administrator until his appointment at the APA office in Dakar in 2006. After this, GPU president, Madi Ceesay doubled as administrator, again, voluntarily until the appointment of the current administrator in January 2008.Prior to this, interviews were conducted and an administrator appointed but could not commence as funds promised for this at the Toubab Diallaw meeting in Dakar failed to materialize.The GPU/Games partnership signed in November helped to address this problem.

Upon appointment, the administrator with effect becomes an ex-officio member of the Executive and is required to attend meetings of the Executive
Committee and take minutes. She is also required to implement the decisions
of the Executive Committee.

In January, the administrator benefited from a C2C mission aimed at backstopping the GPU Secretariat and accounts keeping of the GPU/Games partnership project

In short, with an experienced administrator in place, it is envisaged that the work of the GPU will progress.Furthermore, the project is well designed with adequate measures in place to serve as checks and to ensure transparency.

The recruitment of the administrator and terms of reference were drawn by the GPU Executive and its advisory committee. This was also agreed to by Games who fund the monthly salary payments of the administrator.

Project Coordinator

The GPU/Games partnership agreement also makes provision for the appointment of a project coordinator, who will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the

The Project Coordinator is required to implement all decisions of the Executive Committee so long as they are consistent with the partnership agreement.Among other things, the coordinator will ensure the adequate and prompt implementation of the work plan; develop a database on media trainers and trained media workers; and, engage in research in order to develop and or propose new ideas for capacity building, fund raising and continuity of the project.

Furthermore, the partnership agreement makes provision for checks. A Gambian
organizational mentor, George Christensen and a regional press union consultant are to serve as supervisors.

Support Staff

Office Secretary

The secretary at the GPU office has been with the Union since 2000. A loyal and hardworking member of staff, she was sometimes owed a month to two months salary arrears due to lack of funds especially during the second year of tenure.In times like this, members of the GPU Executive have either contributed in part or wholly paid her salaries.

At the monthly meeting of January 2008, executive members lamented the poor salary structures and the fact that her salary had been static since she joined the GPU. The administrator was authorized to effect salary increment changes of 67 per cent with immediate effect.

Office Messenger/Cleaner

Since the assumption of office of the current executive, the GPU has had three office cleaner messengers.Due to inadequate funds and the size of the office, it has been generally accepted that the office cleaner would double as the messenger.

Late payments, salary arrears coupled with a poor salary structure have made it difficult to maintain a consistent cleaner/messenger.It is important that the secretariat maintain a long serving office messenger who knows the GPU contacts and their offices.In months that there was no messenger, the secretary had to double and Executive members have had to distribute and receive mail.

In January, a new cleaner messenger was recruited and has also benefited from the salary increment that was effected end January.

External Auditor

Amadou Sanneh of AAC was contracted as External Auditor to the GPU as agreed in the GPU/Games Partnership.This, the Executive also felt would boost the image of the Union in accessing funding from a wider array of sources and donors.

Games member Ms. Kirsten Jensen also assisted in the identification of the external auditor.

Strategic Plan

The GPU was supported by Article 19 to develop a strategic plan on March 13, 2007.The Workshop was held at the NaNA Conference Hall and attended by the GPU executive, the advisory committee set up after the Toubab Diallaw meeting, Article 19 and other GPU Partners.

Heads of media houses and representatives of the Government were invited but did not attend.This however did not prevent the Strategy from being developed.

Most activities listed under the strategic plan are either short term or ongoing.These were drawn in line with the current financial situation of the GPU and activities that we can embark on given the limited technical expertise of the current executive and our advisors, potential donors in country and Article 19 who funded the meeting.


In December 2006, the GPU website www.gambiapressunion.org was launched.The site, hosted by Ager Media is funded by Games.In December 2007, due to inadequate materials and lack of access to materials for the site, a GPU Executive member was trained on website management.


Symposia/ Public Events

In a bid to raise awareness on freedom of expression and other related human rights issues, the GPU organizes symposia to familiarize members and non members alike on the global and national issues affecting the Gambian media.All of these activities were jointly funded by the GPU and partners based on their area of interest.

Commemoration of the 1stanniversary of the Killing of Deyda Hydara

December 2005

In commemoration of the first anniversary of the killing of Deyda Hydara, the GPU organized a two day international conference on the theme press freedom, democracy and development.

Participants were drawn from the WAJA membership, Press Unions in the sub region, Games, IFJ, MFWA, FAMEDEV, BBC World, the CSO Coalition in The Gambia.

As part of activities marking the anniversary, participants were to visit the site were the late Deyda Hydara was gunned down but were denied access by the Police on arrival.

Messages of solidarity were read by FLARE, Games, SYMPICS, and WAJA.

The secretary of state for Communications, Information and Technology was invited to the Opening and Closing ceremonies but did not come.She also was not represented.

The activity was funded by AAITG.

The third and fourth anniversaries of the killing were not celebrated in such magnitude but the Union issues statements on the day, visits the family and joins them in prayer.It was an Executive Decision to celebrate the event only on milestone years given the costs entailed in organizing large scale events.

Toubab Diallaw Meeting

Following consistent attacks on the media, media practitioners and arrests of some executive members of the GPU, a consultative meeting was held in Toubab Diallaw, Senegal to discuss the media situation in The Gambia and the way forward for the GPU.

Partners and international media organizations such as the IFJ, MFWA, Games, International Media Support (IMS), FAMEDEV, members and advisors of the GPU executive, and representatives of the CSO Coalition in The Gambia were in attendance.

Pledges were made to support the institutional capacity building of the GPU, further raise the issue of the situation of the Gambian media and an advisory committee was set up to guide and monitor the activities of the Executive.

World Press Freedom Day, May 06

On World Press Freedom Day, 2006, the GPU, the CSO Coalition, patrons and friends of the GPU launched the Deyda Hydara Foundation at the Alliance Franco Gambienne in memory of a fallen comrade,Deyda Hydara, co-propreitor and founder of The Point Newspaper who was gunned down on December 16, 2004.

World Press Freedom Day, May 07

The GPU celebrated World Press Freedom Day 2007 by organizing another symposium on freedom of expression and human rights.Guest Speakers are drawn from Human Rights Groups and Media practitioners.

Courtesy Calls

Since it's assumption of office in March 2005, the GPU Executive has paid courtesy calls on AAITG, the British High Commission, US Embassy and maintained cordial links with these institutions. Efforts to meet the SoS for Communication, Information and Technology always proved futile.


The GPU now has a membership of One Hundred and Sixty Six (166).

Since March 2005, there have been 70 new members. Of these, Sixty Four (64) applied between the months of January to early March 2008.

As at now, there are 36 applications pending review. Of these, 30 are broadcast journalists/ media workers and the remaining 6 are in the print media.Again, all of these were submitted between February 20thand March 19th , 2008.

Non payment of membership dues has also contributed to some of the Union's financial constraints.Out of a membership of 104 at the beginning of January 2008, Ninety Six (96) owed dues and only paid in the run up to the Congress.There were only Eight (8) fully paid up members as at January 2008.

Twenty Six (26) of these members currently reside outside The Gambia.


In March 2005, an executive of nine was elected to office, by January 2007, the executive had dwindled to 4.

Musa Saidy Khan and Omar Bah left for their personal security.

Aisa Dabo now lives and works in Dakar and Alimatou Jarra Jallow moved to the USA for family reasons.

In 2006, Alex Dacosta, co-opted member of the Executive resigned by copy of email sent to other members of the GPU executive and some partners of the GPU.


Monthly Meetings

The GPU Executive has convened 30 out of 36 monthly meetings since the current executive was elected into office in March 2005.Of these, several were cancelled as the numbers in attendance sometimes two or three all executive members went on to have executive meetings instead.The highest turn out of a monthly meeting was in October 2005, when ten non executive members attended.All of these meetings were attended by at least one member of the executive mostly, the GPU president.

Fifth Triennial Congress

Technical and Financial Proposals were sent to AAITG, UNDP and the IFJ for funding of the March 2008 Congress.Of these, only the IFJ responded favorably.

All arrangements were made and put in place by the administrator, the GPU Executive, its advisors.

The Congress is funded by the GPU and IFJ.


At the WAJA Congress in Abidjan, May 2006, Madi Ceesay, GPU president was elected into the WAJA Executive board.

On 6thJanuary 2007, Madi Ceesay attended the IFJ Congress in Moscow where he was elected into the IFJ Executive.


By virtue of the fact that he sits on the WAJA executive board, GPU President Madi Ceesay has on three occasions attended board meetings in Bamako, Mali

The fourth WAJA board meeting in November 2007, he could not attend, and was represented by GPU secretary general, Ndey Tapha Sosseh.Reports, details and minutes of these meetings were discussed at GPU monthly meetings.

The GPU president also traveled to Morocco to attend an IFJ meeting.


Madi M.K. Ceesay, President, Gambia Press Union received the CPJ Press Freedom Award in 2006.The GPU president is the first West African to receive the accolade.


The media has increasingly been operating in an environment of growing hostility, arrests, detention, assaults and the closure of media houses have frequently occurred during the tenure of the current GPU Executive.

Arrests and Detention

Mr Musa Saidykhan, editor-in-chief of The Independent was arrested and detained for a brief period soon after his return from The African Editors Forum (TAEF) meeting in South Africa. Interrogation centered on suspicions that he gave information to senior South African officials about the state of the press and human rights in The Gambia.

March 2006

The editor-in-chief of Independent Newspaper, Musa Saidykhan was again arrested by the NIA March 27thfrom his home a few days after the alleged attempted coup of March 21, 2006 following "critical" articles published in his paper. The following day, Independent General Manager Madi Ceesay was also arrested by the NIA.They were released three days later with no charges against them.Musa Saidy Khan now lives outside the country and alleges that he was tortured whilst in detention.

April 2006

On April 10thLamin Fatty, a reporter for the Independent Newspaper was arrested by the NIA from home and detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul for 63 days.He was charged for false publication and the trial, which commenced on June 12, 2006 is still ongoing.If found guilty, he faces penalties ranging from a fine D50,000 and D250,000 or imprisonment for a minimum period of one year.

The Gambia Press Union has had to raise funds to contribute to Fatty's legal fees.

Mr Juldeh Sowe, a rec