Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gambia: Where is the Press Freedom?

Gambia: Where is the Press Freedom?

Alieu Khan

I want to ask Gambian journalists in the US and other parts of the world, where is the press freedom we are talking about?

We have just read on Freedom Newspaper, a writer being denied the opportunity to express his opinion a particular online newspaper. The same thing happened with me, when I wrote in support of Suwaebou Conateh's award to President Jammeh.

The editor of another online paper carried my article, but interestingly he ended up calling me an idiot and a lunatic, I would like to thank him for his comments. I am not angry about it, because he was the only one who thinks I am. The role of the media is to inform the public and allow them make their decision from what they read. As an editor I expect him to be objective, reliable and independent. A high degree of dignity and pride is required of a newspaper because of its role in the society.

If I want I can stand at the centre of Washington DC and talk good about my country and leader. I guess everybody has right to your opinion and one of the role of a newspaper is to create a forum where people can express their views. With all respect I don't think its appropriate for any editor to ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of holding a different opinion.

If I was to sit face to face with that editor, my first advice to him will be to comport himself whiles performing his job. He should always try to maintain the dignity of his profession. Where you are not even in support of a contribution, decency should prevail.

I think he was blinded by anger and that made it difficult for him to understand what I was trying to put through. Presidents come and go but Gambia will remain. As journalists I think we should try to make extra effort in using as much cool and moderate words in what ever we put down for our audience. He was talking about the April 10 and 11 student strike, not knowing that I was among the leaders of the union and was detained at the Serious Crime Unit.

Can two online papers, tell me why they refused to carry my article? Is it that they only wanted to see people writing against uncle Suwaebou, or may be they also felt I am a lunatic and an idiot, who shouldn't be given the chance to express his views. Where is the professional and ethical standards they talk about when criticizing media houses like Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) and the Daily Observer.

If you accept the fact that, their should be free expression of comments and criticisms in any democratic state, then why suppressing the opinion of other people. It is the duty of the press to help in encouraging jaama and joko in the hearts and minds of the people. I don't think my article deserved to be ignored. We have seen those very online papers carrying articles that undoubtedly have the potential to inflame ethnic hatred.

Where is the press freedom we are talking about, when we continue to feed by selective reporting. We can't expect every body to dance to our tune. President Jammeh like any other leader has supporters and rivals. Those who support him, has reasons for doing so and when they write they should be given the required attention.

What I was trying to emphasize in my previous article, is that Gambia is not all about politics. So many Gambians abroad wrote me emails showing solidarity to my opinion and one of them, who was a popular and efficient former Gambian journalist in the States has this to say:

'I am very pleased to read your comments. These guys are breathing in a different world and are discouraging a lot of young talented Gambians who are planning on going home. You are "damn right", I was in Gambia just 2 weeks ago and Kairaba Ave. and places along the Senegambia road are bustling with businesses. Needless to comment on the accomplishments of young Gambians.'

Talking about the opposition being involved in social activities and the need to support Gambian youths, another Gambian in the States wrote in support of FJC:- ' The opposition in The Gambia is not a promising one. I agree with you that Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay is very helpful to Gambian youths and I have benefited from her support. During the PPP regime I was denied entry to Gambia High School, because I arrived late for the interview. It was FJC, who was working with my dad at The Gambia Airways, that took me to the then minister A.A Njie to lodge a complain and I was accepted in that school'

The Gambia is a lovely country and we shouldn't use our tongue to tear it apart. A Nigerian mother, also in the USA wrote me an email disclosing that our country is the only place in Africa she goes for holidays with her children. According to her she will be in The Gambia, this coming Roots Festival. She appealed to Gambians to start realizing that they are lucky to be in The Gambia and not countries like Congo, Sudan, Somalia etc.

Before I end this piece I would like to talk about the laws of attractions in the book The Beginners Guide to Abundance. If you are thinking about suffering you will attract suffering. Easy brings easy and hard brings hard. What ever you think about on a consistent basis, you bring about.

I was a stubborn student leader and used to write critical articles about Jammeh. During the transition, I wrote telling the junta to step down and seek the people's mandate and in another article I challenged President Jammeh to treat Gambians like his own wife. I was writing, whiles living in The Gambia. I felt we should be non-violent in the way we communicate and put into consideration the cultures and norms of The Gambia.

Greetings to all my colleagues all over the world that I missed a lot. My classmates at Nusrat High School, members of GAMSU, Gambia College and all those who used to be in the media field. That's my email again:-

Editors note: The views of the author do reflect the position of the Freedom Newspaper. This paper cannot be held liable for the author's views. His views do not represent or influence the editorial position of the Freedom Newspaper in anyway.

Mr. Khan for your information, Publisher Ebrima G Sankareh has been in contact with Freedom since the publication of Suntou Touray's piece. Based on what Mr. Sankareh has alluded to we respect his decision not to allow his paper to be used for tribal forum. Tribalism is a sensitive topic and could ravaged a nation if not handled with care.

Both Lt. Colonel Samsideen Sarr and Suntou Touray need to let things go and open a fresh page. Let byegone be byegones. What's wrong is to make unsubstantiated allegations. Allegations must be supported by solid facts and not mere speculations.

We published Touray's piece in good faith without malice. As Sankareh promises to email his version of the story to the Freedom Newspaper, we call for restraint and avoid making earlier conclusions. Lets give him the benefit of the doubt, until such a time he clears the air. Thanks for your attention.

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