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Veteran journalist renews call for press freedom, as Daily News Newspaper clocks two years

Apr 8, 2011, 1:51 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

A veteran Gambian journalist has renewed a persistent call by journalists for respect of freedom of the press, stressing that journalists are crucial elements of change in any democratic society.

The call by Swaebou Conateh, publisher of the Gambia News and Report Magazine, was made during celebrations marking the second anniversary of The Daily News newspaper, one of the leading newspapers in the country, held Wednesday at its newspaper’s office along Kombo Sillah Drive in Churchill’s Town.

Established by veteran journalist and CPJ award winner Madi M.K. Ceesay as an independent news outlet, The Daily News is a thrice-weekly newspaper that publishes in print and online.

Addressing the gathering of members of the media fraternity, Conateh underscored the important role played by journalists, describing them as elements of change in any democratic society.

"Exactly two years ago today, the first edition of a newspaper called The Daily News hit the streets of KMC and Banjul Municipality. The venture was a brave and bold move on the part of our colleague, Madi Ceesay of Media Agenda and hitherto also of The Gambia Press Union, the Independent newspaper and the Gambia News and Report," he stated.

Mr Conateh, who spoke on the topic "What future for The Daily News", said at the time many people doubted if the paper could make it in an increasingly crowded media field, as already in circulation were The Daily Observer, The Point and Foroyaa newspapers, among others.

"However, even though audacious at the time, Mr Ceesay ventured into the field of newspaper publishing and brought out the first edition of The Daily News with its boldly declared motto of being factual, reliable, and authoritative," Conateh added.

He noted that Gambians have seen how The Daily News frequency increasedd from one to several times a week in pursuit of the management's target to make it what its name proclaims, a daily.

Speaking at the same ceremony, the Editor-in-Chief of Daily News, Saikou Jammeh, gave a brief history of the paper, which he said was established by seasoned Gambian journalist Madi Ceesay.

"Since its inception, The Daily News has fiercely guarded the values of free enterprise anchored on social justice and democracy. Our uncompromising commitment to journalistic integrity has seen the paper grow into a powerful voice bringing to the public and the world the untold stories of the country and beyond," he stated.

He noted that despite entering a crowded newspaper market, Daily News quickly established itself as the primary source of information in almost all aspects of the Gambia's development, thanks to the strict adherence to its motto.

According to him, two years on, The Daily News stands out as a major provider of Gambia's economic, social, political, cultural and sports news without compromising its editorial independence over the choice of issues to address and approaches to adopt. This, he added, is something the public appreciates.

"The media in The Gambia has seen remarkable growth and development. It all augurs well for the future since no democracy can function well without a free press playing its multifaceted role as watchdog, educator, informer and entertainer on the national scene," Jammeh concluded.

In his statement to welcome guests, the Manager of Daily News, Bakary Sanneh, described The Daily News as an independent paper that has no political leaning.

"It is a paper that affords fair and balanced presentation of news and views to its varied readership across the globe," he added.

"We promise to remain a factual, reliable and authoritative newspaper and improve on other journalistic aspects for best practice and standard - a promise we are sure of fulfilling."

Sanneh commended the US Embassy, the British High Commission and UNESCO NATCOM for their support to The Daily News.

Also addressing the gathering was Ms Bijou Peters, a veteran Gambian journalist, who also called for a free media environment in the country where journalists can work freely.

At the end of the celebrations, Binta A. Bah, a reporter with the paper was awarded the best journalist of the year, while Saikou Jammeh, the Editor-In-Chief was awarded the best columnist of the year. Jammeh received a cheque of D500 while Madam Bah received D1000.