We Condemn the Detention of our own M.S
Monday, January 09, 2012
Frankly, when we set-out to join The Gambia news media industry, we knew that the environment is hostile. Like all other news media outfits in the country, our task will be tough. More daunting will be keeping our promise - factual, authoritative and reliable newspaper.
This was even more visible to us, emerging at a time when memories of most heinous crimes against The Gambia media were still fresh. There was no sign of it slackening. Yet, we came-in.
However, the thick and fast pace at which we are coming under attack from the powers that be and their agencies, is quite worrisome. But we are undaunted.
On Friday, police in Bansang, a major commercial town in provincial-Central River region of The Gambia arrested and briefly detained our own Momodou Salieu Jallow, who we fondly call, in short, as M.S, presenting his first and middle names.
Our reporter’s arrest came in the wake of the report he authored on the traditional chief of Lower Fulladu district, Momodou Lamin Baldeh.
M.S interviewed a woman rice grower, who alleged that chief Baldeh used a hajj ticket earmarked for her, to bribe his extra-marital partner.
In fact, the woman was one of many disgruntled rice growers expressing outburst over alleged irregularities on the part the executive of the Rice Farmers Cooperative Society of CRR, which chief Baldeh, is said to be a prominent member.
The woman’s allegations are that, last year, she was to benefit from President Yahya Jammeh sponsored annual hajj package to go for annual pilgrimage to Mecca, but chief Baldeh instead issued it to his lover.
However, at the time the woman was making the allegations, the chief was not present to tell his side of the story.
As a credible newspaper, we are obliged by the uncompromising ethical principles guiding this noble profession of ours, not to publish this one-sided version of the story.
Our reporter understands this, and he did not hesitate to act responsibly and professionally. He contacted chief Baldeh without seeking an editorial advice. This was possible via the chief’s cell phone.
And the chief, as required of him, told his side of the story, which was equally featured in the story.
Infact, Chief Baldeh did not only deny the allegations, but went further to explain how he received instructions to award the package and did it accordingly.
This way, we were fair to all the parties in the story, insured the credibility of the paper and minimised, if not fend off any grounds for litigation against the paper or the reporter.
Of course, The Gambia being a country, which is hostile to the media and media practitioners, no news media outfit dares fall short of this practice.
Yet, alongside chief Baldeh’s accuser, our own MS was arrested on Friday Jan. 6 - the story was published on Wednesday Jan. 4.
Both were briefly detained at Brikama-Ba police station and later taken to Bansang police station where they were granted bail after spending about 5 hours behind bars.
The latest development in the saga is that our reporter has been asked by the police to retract the story and apologise for it. He was to indicate that his report is false.
But we say a BIG NO!. NO!NO!NO! Let it be known that this paper is rooted in certain principles that cannot be compromised. We are here to tell it as it is. It’s an obligation we owe to the public. We will not shy away from this obligation.
This does not say that we are above mistakes and errors. But the beauty is, we strife to avoid them. We apologise when we make errors or mistakes. But we do not apologise for doing the right thing.
This paper is still young – less than three years in the market. But MS’ case is the fourth of its kind. And we condemn in the strongest terms this unabated attack on our reporters and by extension, Gambian journalists. A stop must be put to it because we will not take it.