Sunday, September 6, 2009

Towards a Just society

Since July 1994, at the dawn of what was popularly held as a people’s revolution, The Gambia has become synonymous to suppression of freedom of expression, and this situation seems to be deteriorating by the second. The worst reality is that there doesn’t seem to be any tangible interest in effort to counter this growing trend of repression perpetuated by a bunch of enemies of progress.
When repressive actions are taken against members of the press, nothing seems to be done other than the usual empty treats that the perpetuators have become so accustomed to that they appear more like songs to them. The reason for this is mainly that the actual culprits are ignored, and the result - a multitude of journalists continue to languish in detention centres across the world, most of these in tortuous places on the African continent.
Chief Ebrima Manneh, rightly described as a prisoner of conscience by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is a Gambian journalist in the hands of one of the world’s most inexperienced but notoriously dangerous intelligent agencies, the murderous National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of The Gambia. The reason for his detention is one of the most frivolous you can ever find.
Chief Manneh worked for the Daily Observer newspaper, the same pro-government newspaper I served as Editor-in-chief until August 11, when I fled the country, running away from two of the very same people who put the poor journalist’s life in jeopardy - Momodou Sanyang, Director General of The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), and Pa Malick Faye, Managing Director of the Observer Company. These two people, together with some quack of a rather misguided academic, Dr Aliue Badara Saja Taal, former Managing Director of the Observer Company, are chiefly responsible for the disappearance of Chief Manneh. This is no speculation. It is the result of a finding I sanctioned and embarked upon, myself, during my stint at the Observer. I became especially interested in the case because I came close to being a victim of the same situation Manneh is in. I will explain that later.
For now though, we must focus on how to fee Chief. If the world is genuine in its effort to delivering justice for Chief Manneh and his family, and to ensure that this trend of lawlessness is stemmed, I bet these three people must be called to answer for their part in the crime. They are no better than suspected common criminals being tried across the world for various crimes against humanity.
While this site is not going to be limited to campaigning for the unconditional release of Chief Manneh or to bring the perpetuators of this heinous crime against him and his troubled family to justice, it seeks to pioneer a new course to tackling issues of this nature on the African continent and beyond as well to discuss many of the issues that contribute to the continued underdevelopment of the world in general and The Gambia in particular, towards a just society.
In our crusade to tackle unlawful actions against the press, we must endeavour, in our own way, to lobby for international action to:
1. Identify the culprit (s) and single them out;
2. Freeze their assets abroad, if they have any; and
3. Restrict their movement by slamming travel ban on them; while at the same time pushing on to seek justice for their crime.

This task calls for a concerted effort. Justice For The Press or simply J4P will need as much support as possible from all supporters of a free press across the world.

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