Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Breaking News: The Big Interview. With Freedom Newspaper
Read my interview with Freedom Newspaper. I promise it is just the beginning of the crusade. As usual, your criticisms are welcome...constructive criticisms, I mean.
Have a nice read.
Breaking News: The Big Interview:Absconded Daily Observer Editor Blow The Whistle!!!
Absconded Daily Observer Editor Blow The Whistle!!!
As Kemo Cham Calls For A Travel Ban To Be Imposed Against GRTS’S Momodou Sanyang, Pa Malick Faye, And Dr. Saja Taal
Cham Says Sanyang, Faye, And Taal Are Responsible For The Disappearance of Journalist Chief Manneh!!!!
By Pa Nderry M’Bai, Raleigh, NC.
The absconded Daily Observer Editor-in-chief Kemo Cham is calling for a travel ban to be imposed against Momodou Sanyany, Pa Malick Faye, and Dr. Saja Taal, as he accuses them of being responsible for the disappearance of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh. Mr. Cham who is on exile, said the three are “criminals”, who should be indicted, and slammed with global travel ban. He confirmed in an Exclusive Interview with the Freedom Newspaper about a special report he authored-pointing accusing fingers against Sanyang, Faye, and Taal for being responsible for the disappearance of Chief Manneh. “I actually wrote a report which makes reference to the trio as chiefly responsible for the disappearance of Chief Manneh. I would not call it defamatory as that particular point is based on the accounts of some of the people who work at the Observer presently. We should be fair enough to direct the hit on them…Travel ban, asset freezing, among other penalties will be good. They are nothing but suspected criminals,” said the erstwhile Daily Observer Editor, who recently absconded from the jurisdiction of The Gambia for fear of being arrested, and possibly jailed by the local authorities. Mr. Cham believes that the imposition of such a travel ban against the trio, would serve as a deterrent to others. “If the free world rallied and petition Pa Malick Faye, Dr Taal and Momodou Sanyang, we will soon know. I for one, I am urging travel band, freezing of assets, alongside some penalties for these people. That will further serve as a deterrent for future cases like this. One thing I am certain of is that Chief Manneh is in the hands of the National Intelligence Agency of The Gambia (NIA),” he noted. Mr. Cham commented on a wide range of issues- including his beef with Momodou Sanyang, Pa Malick Faye, his role as Editor-in-chief, past trials, and tribulations, Observer ownership, President Jammeh, Freedom Newspaper's harsh editorial stance against the President, and a host of other burning issues of the day. Below is the full text of the interview. Please read on…
Freedom Newspaper: Good day Kemo. Don’t expect to have an easy interview with the Freedom Newspaper. Real questions, real time. How prepared are you? Are you ready?
K Cham: Well, do not expect anything short of the right answers to your questions.
Freedom Newspaper: Why are you on the run? Did you kill, or harm somebody in The Gambia? What is the problem?
K Cham: I did not kill or harm anyone in The Gambia; on the contrary, I ran away from been arrested…abducted would be the right word… possibly harmed or killed.
Freedom Newspaper: Why running if your hands are clean?
K Cham: Many Gambians are in trouble today, yet their hands are clean. I could have been one of them if I had not run away.
The other day I read on Freedom that editor Mbai thought of some lady who suggested traveling with him to Banjul as having gone mad. Why was that? Why would the editor of Freedom not go to Banjul if his hands were clean? Or did you harm or kill someone?
Freedom Newspaper: I hear you, but don’t you think by staying home, and face the consequences, would have given legitimacy to your claims? What are your fears?
K Cham: The case of Chief Manneh, whose disappearance the whole world is crying about today, whose issue is concerned with my fleeing, is enough legitimacy to my fear. Do you think if he had foreseen what became of him he would not have fled The Gambia? I strongly believe that I am better off defending myself away in liberty than having people doing it on my behalf when I will have been as good as dead.
Freedom Newspaper: How did you manage to escape? Did the NIA help you or what?
K Cham: In an institution like the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of The Gambia, with such a bad reputation, founded on the basis of discrimination and savagery, you are bound to find some unfaithful all the time. As a matter of fact that is the rule of the Game within that body. No trust. Quite a number of its agents are some of the most untrustworthy you can find anywhere in the world.
But there are good ones among them you know. Actually someone from within tipped me off. Remember that The Gambia is so small that one might have somebody they know in almost every public or private sector institution you can think of in the country. I have been a student leader at the University of The Gambia, I belong to quite a number of civil society organisations, I have been reasonable with so many people as editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer…so you should not be surprised that I knew quite a few within who would feel obliged to save my soul.
And also, given my position at the Observer, I could have only been a fool if I had not set precautionary measures like establishing relationships of this nature. Knowing it or not, you are being checked on a constant basis. The people you work with are working behind your back…such a dirty place it is, the Observer.
Freedom Newspaper: A Freedom Newspaper letter writer alleges that you wrote defamatory allegations against the GRTS DG Momodou Sanyang, Saja Taal, and Pa Malick Faye, the Daily Observer MD. What can you tell us about such assertions?
K Cham: I actually wrote a report which makes reference to the trio as chiefly responsible for the disappearance of Chief Manneh. I would not call it defamatory as that particular point is based on the accounts of some of the people who work at the Observer presently. We should be fair enough to direct the hit on them…Travel ban, asset freezing, among other penalties will be good. They are nothing but suspected criminals.
Freedom Newspaper: But it has been alleged that the allegations were contained in a computer memory stick belonging to you, which was leaked to Pa Malick by an Observer insider, which resulted to your summoning to the MD’S office for clarification. Your views please?
Kemo Cham: I am not denying that. The point I am trying to put across is that it is not defamatory. It is a founded fact.
Freedom Newspaper: Why should you write unsubstantiated allegations against these people named therein without proofs? Were you trying to undermine Pa Malick?
K Cham: I had absolutely no reason to undermine Pa Malick. If you worked with me you would get an idea about the kind of person I am. I met Chief only a couple of times, when I never dreamt of working at the Observer. And when I was coming to the Observer he was not there. But you do not need to be at the Observer to get a story as important as that. I got this story even as an ordinary reader of the Observer, when I never knew who Pa Malick was. And when I joined the paper, I naturally became interested in the case. Of course you would expect that of anyone who is security conscious. This guy had been working with the paper I was working for. I should know the kind of people I was dealing with around me. That was what led to my finding out in more detail.
What I find difficult to understand up to now, however, is why nobody is talking about these people when the issue of Chief Manneh arises.
If you go through minutes of recent GPU meetings, you will find out that I am among a few people who have been making repeated calls for Dr Taal to be called to answer questions as he was responsible. Besides, he was the head of the institution at the time of the disappearance of the journalist. The response of the GPU executive has always been that there is no evidence to prove Dr Taal’s involvement. I find that absurd.
But also, come to think about it, there is no substantial evidence to show that government is responsible, yet it is been asked to produce the journalist. Is that justifiable enough? I do not think so. Momodou Sanyang, Dr Saja Taal and Pa Malick Faye are responsible.
Freedom Newspaper: You claimed to have authentic information about the disappearances of Chief Ebrima Manneh, and the actual ownership of the Daily Observer. What evidence do you have?
K Cham: For all I know the only time I am speaking openly on this matter is on this interview. And the only thing I have said so far is that information I got clearly reinforces widely held belief back home that these three people are responsible.
Ok, let us consider it as mere rumor; but when people are accused are they not called to answer? That is my point. Heads of states are been blamed for human right violations because they are heads of states, so heads of institutions should also be held responsible for the disappearance of their employees. That is my point.
Freedom Newspaper: Who owns the Daily Observer Newspaper?
K Cham: On the back of every copy of the Daily Observer it is indicated as one Amadou Samba. I have never met him in my close to two years of working at the Observer though.
Freedom Newspaper: As the former editor of the Observer, where do you receive orders from? Don’t tell me the President’s office.
K Cham: I referred to my appointment letter for instructions. And according to this letter I was answerable to the managing director. So, I took instructions directly from the MD.
But there were a number of occasions I got some calls from State House from some of the many self-styled spokespeople there, sometimes mere messengers, sometimes camera men, who would want to dictate me. Some of them would give you the impression that they got the directive directly from the president. And they would tell you to do it like this or that. What do you deduce from that? Momodu Sanyang would say it in no uncertain terms that the Big Man say so… meaning the president. You will get more on the little I know about Momodu Sanyang on subsequent publications on my blog.
Freedom Newspaper: I thought they say Amadou Samba owns the paper. Why should the state house give you editorial orders?
K Cham: The only time I spoke to Amadou Samba was after I had received a call from someone who said they were calling from Gampetroleum, and that they wanted me to take down my phone so that they could speak to the marketing manager. I thought it was a disrespectful attitude, and I refused. The person intimidated me into going but I stood my grounds. Later it was rumored that it was Amadou Samba. I called him to verify, because I had the number on the phone which I inherited from Dr Taal and Dida Halake. I just wanted to find out if Amadou Samba actually had anything to do with the Observer up to making such moves. But I was amazed that he was not aware of what I was talking about.
Officially Amadou owns the paper, but things do not seem to be so. What is the fuss about the ownership, anyway?
Freedom Newspaper: What were your worst moments as an Editor? Any challenges?
K Cham: Some people think you have to be perfect. Others are constantly planning how to get rid of you. They would not give you any impression of their plan and that is the most dangerous thing about it. They dig hole for you. I have discovered more than 5 plots by Pa Malick Faye against me, both at the State House level and at the level of Momodou Sanyang as well as at the NIA.
Indeed, I have so many bad memories as editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer. But one I would never forget was an organised plot led by Pa Malick to destroy my image at the Observer. It worked, and I still can not explain why I did not resign then, because I said it that I was going to. To me that was the climax demonstration of Malick’s shameless treachery. I will treat that topic fully on my blog subsequently.
Freedom Newspaper: Is it true that you were on the verge of being fired, and as a result you decided to leave the country?
K Cham: If I were a traitor, I would have remained for as long as I would be willing and ready to go by Momodou Sayang’s terms. But I wasn’t going to do that. That explains why I was not sacked even when John was sacked. Did they explain why he was sacked? They would never, because they do not have any genuine reason whatsoever. Both John and I refused to accept Sanyang’s bigotry. It is only now that I have realized that they did not sack me because they were waiting to see if I would give in to their proposal of turning my back on Neneh Macdoull-Gaye, which I was never going to do. I was never sacked and I am not aware that I was about to be sacked. It would not have made any difference anyway, because I was actually fed up with the Observer.
Freedom Newspaper: During your watch the Observer sales went down right?
K Cham: The corrupt attitude of Sanyang and his bunch of so-called board members, in connivance with corrupt insiders like Andrew Dacosta, the former managing director, Pa Malick and the chief printer, Francis, all of whom hide behind their unrealistic membership of the APRC, almost brought the company to its knees.
Freedom Newspaper: Why are Gambians not buying the Observer these days? Is it because of the online papers or what? What is the problem?
K Cham: I have no evidence to ascertain that Observer is not been bought as compared to the past. But imagine that is the case. If you have two or more competitors and one or two outsells the rest, what would you deduce from that? In my own view, the one that sells more has a better offer in terms of service or product as the case might be.
Freedom Newspaper: What can you tell us about the vendor’s theft case? What actually happened?
K Cham: Corruption at the Observer, before the coming of Neneh Macdoull, had been endemic. And as soon as she left it was rekindled. While I do not have any reason to doubt the authenticity of the conviction and jailing of the printers, I strongly believe that some big guns were let go free, and I have always said that even while I was at the Observer. I have never seen a place like the company in terms of people’s attitude towards corruption.
Freedom Newspaper: Why criminalizing the vendors by putting their images on the internet, when the case was not even decided by the courts?
K Cham: You see, since I left I had never wanted to talk to the media because I feel some level of guilt. Because I was editor-in-chief I was responsible for all the hate editorials that were written. In fact, presently I learnt that Pa Malick is spearheading a nasty campaign that accuses me of been anti-GPU. But that will just make them look foolish, because Ndey Tapha and other GPU executive members can testify about my attitude towards the organization. As a matter of fact, my next issue on J4P will be on that. Already every one knows that the Observer is total rubbish or a propaganda machinery. Only its traditional worshipers will listen to it.
Coming back to the issue of the vendors, if you know what operates in Gambia today…if you watch GRTS…you will see the point I am trying to make. The verdict is passed even before the case reaches the court. I had some blockheaded so-called deputy editors-in-chief who believe that we have to go like GRTS if we could be seen in the same light.
Freedom Newspaper: What is the average salary for the Observer printers?
K Cham: I do know that there was a revolutionary improvement on remuneration when Neneh Macdoull took over, and the printers were not left out.
Freedom Newspaper: What is the level of staff morale at the Observer? Are the workers happy with the status quo?
K Cham: Absolutely not. If someone gets into trouble, you are preoccupied with the thought of who is next on the line? Now you gauge the morale of the workers in such a working condition for yourself.
Freedom Newspaper: As the editor-in-chief you must have been receiving D10, 000 dalasis salary. What was your salary?
K Cham: Just about that.
Freedom Newspaper: Have you ever thought of parting company with the Observer?
K Cham: Shortly before I left, during two of the intimidating conversations, as it were, which I had with Momodou Sanyang, I told him that I was going to resign. He said no. Besides, I have heard similarly tough days in the hands of Pa Malick and his cronies out of envy, like I explained earlier on. When some of them were joining the Observer as freelancers I was still in school. I came and cruised over them. So, you can imagine the animosity. Is it my fault that I could do it better? It is as a result of this very same envy that Pa Malick put Chief in this situation.
I thought of moving on many occasions, but I was talked out of it by people I respected. They thought that would be the wrong decision.
Freedom Newspaper: What inspired you to work for the Daily Observer? Were you tempted by money, or position?
K Cham: I swear to my God, if you asked Dida Halake he should tell you that I never negotiated my salary. I accepted his first offer straight away. My focus had been to get a place. Not the money or the position. All the promotions I got came to me absolutely unexpectedly. I never negotiated them, unlike many of the grudging fools at the Observer who got their promotions because they brewed green tea for Dr Taal or because they were close to some corrupt APRC figures. I did even know that people outside the Gambia knew who I was until when I got information that I had been written about on some of these online papers. I must say here that many of you wrote absolutely wrong information about me, my relationship with Nedneh, the GPU and sorts. I do not know how you got your information. I think some of your reporters are eating your money by sending you wrong information. But with time, I hope I will be able to refute all those nonsense.
Freedom Newspaper: Were you Neneh Macdoull’s errand boy? She hired you as Editor-in-chief right?
K Cham: What do you mean she hired me? There was a vacant post of editor-in-chief. I was the eligible one, she appointed me, I suppose, based on merit. That’s all. She did not need me for any errand of hers outside Observer issues during her term. You might as well say I was Dida’s errand boy, because he did not only appoint me, but he promoted me from proofreader to deputy editor in chief. Ask him what the reason for his promoting me was.
Freedom Newspaper: You were not happy about Pa Malick’s appointment as MD? Why do you think you are more qualified than him to man that post?
K Cham: It is not true that I was not happy about Pa Malick’s appointment. However, I was concerned about his corrupt and dangerous attitude, having known what he was capable of. If that is what had been interpreted as been unhappy about his appointment, so be it. I am going to be revealing more of him subsequently.
Freedom Newspaper: Coming back to your intercepted letter, who were the intended recipients of the said communication?
K Cham: That was a report I wrote for onward submission whenever there was the need.
Freedom Newspaper: Were you trying to report Pa Malick, and Co to the NIA, and you got busted?
K Cham: How could I report a wolf to another wolf? That would be stupid of me. As a matter of fact, I indicated in the same report that Chief Manneh had been picked up by the same corrupt NIA at the order of Momodou Sanyang of GRTS. How could I go to the NIA and told them you have Chief Manneh?
Freedom Newspaper: Don’t you think you have betrayed the confidence reposed on you by the Observer Management? I am asking because many believe that you are speaking out of frustration, and grudge. What is the true story here?
K Cham: There is no such thing as Observer management anymore. It is only Pa Malick and Momodou Sanyang. I am not speaking out of frustration. Probably it’s because you had never had the opportunity to hear me. We discussed these issues in the newsroom, when current went off and sometimes on our way to work. This was the same way I spoke to those I could confide in. When we deal with issues of honesty and truth at management board meetings, this was how I spoke. That is why I was unpopular among the bunch of corrupt people led by Pa Malick. These are not allegations. These are facts. I am going to be discussing these issues in detail on my blog, subsequently. I am aware that they are working on vilifying me by fabricating all sorts of lies against me and John.
Freedom Newspaper: You mentioned in your blog that your family was concerned about your safety as a journalist. That you risked being arrested, and charged with false information charges one day. Does this suggest that you are running from facing false information charges?
K Cham: What else do you think could have been suitable for the Nigerian prosecutors back home who are been paid by The Gambia government only to make cases against genuine Gambians? Having said this, I could have been arraigned in court if I were lucky, like you rightly stated in your letter on one of your past editions. Remember these people who were after me, were the very same people who are responsible for Chief Manneh’s disappearance. Imagine what could have happened to me.
Freedom Newspaper: What happened to your memory stick?
K Cham: Pa Malick held it in my face and said ‘‘I am taking it to Momodu Sanyang.’’ It was not a surprise to me though. But I just realized now that I made the mistake of telling them that I was going home to consider whether I was going to resign the next day. They must have accelerated their plot to have me on the hook then.
Freedom Newspaper: In your blog, you claimed that you are on a crusade to promote justice for the press. Why don’t you write editorials while at the Observer to promote press freedom? Don’t tell me that your hands were tied?
K Cham: My hands were not only tied, but I had a bitter experience after having written an editorial on such a subject. Did you know about that? This was shortly after the appointment of this present mediocre police chief, Ensa Badjie. He was, and he still is, forceful. He treats the media preferentially. I penned an editorial on that.
Pa Malick got me identified as they were finding out who did it. A security chief meeting was convened on that. I got that information from a reliable source. The number of intimidations I got only God knows. I have never spoken about it to anyone. The title was; ‘The press and the police.’ At least I am on record of having done that. In the words of some government operative, ‘‘even the point would not do this.’’
So it is not correct to say I never did anything while I was in The Gambia. Only those of you who do not know me will say so.
Freedom Newspaper: Were you the one who penned all those nice editorials in favor of President Jammeh? Don’t lie to me. Tell me the truth?
K Cham: Show some respect. I do not know which editorials you are referring to, but of course I did write a couple of editorials regarding the developments in the country. And let me clarify this. I am not against President Yahya Jammeh as a person. This is one of the big mistakes we Gambians have been making. We have effectively put Yahya Jammeh in the place of the country. Anything happens it is him. No way. The crooks are there and we ignore them, and they continue on their ill work. If I have problem with government, the government is bigger than the president. I actually did sometimes write some good things about him which I will still stand to defend. I single handedly wrote every bit of piece of Observer July 22nd Bus, a project Pa Malick went about lying to APRC people that he was behind (he can not even write a complete profile of himself), which was a reflection of the truth across the country. I have no intention to deny them.
Freedom Newspaper: Today, you are telling us that there is no development in The Gambia, when you have written extensively promoting the regime. How do you reconcile your statements?
K Cham: I never said there was no development. Yes, I did write that government has constructed roads and built hospitals here and there. But the fact remains that there is more to development than just those. However close you might be to someone, there might be one or two things that you will disagree on. Otherwise your relationship is not genuine. As a Gambian, I have my reservations about things back home.
Freedom Newspaper: In a commentary to the Freedom Newspaper on September 6th 2009 you said and I quote “As to whether I would give up my right for the so-called development, well, development itself is broader than just building airport, roads, schools or providing people with electricity. Awareness is an essential aspect of the development of the human being. Now, tell me, how on earth can one get aware when they are starved of information? What is the essence of teaching me about freedom of speech when you will not allow me to practice it”? Don’t you think it is rather too late for you to realize such a reality? Why don’t you honestly point out such realities to the authorities while serving as Observer editor?
K Cham: I have the feeling that you are mistaking me for some political opposition figure. I was not. I was just a journalist who was bound to follow an editorial line. However, I have demonstrated my feelings at the appropriate situations.
I just told you that the Gambia is not the kind of place we all are looking for, where you can tell such a truth openly and get away with it. I would not have risked that. Chief Manneh is in the hands of the NIA, the whole world has been crying about that with no result. What do you think I am, a fool? Or are you looking for a superman in me?
Anyway, I am happy that I am now free to discuss these issues without having to look around me in case somebody is watching.
Freedom Newspaper: Cham, are you talking out of vengeance, or grudge? How do you expect Gambians to believe you?
K Cham: I tell you what; those who know me will believe me. I served as a student leader at the University of the Gambia. I have established myself as my own person, and I am happy that quite a number of people respect me. I have quite a number of followers scattered about within the public and private service.
Have you thought of why I would give up the modest life I lived as editor-in-chief of the Daily Observer for a life of uncertainty? When I was fleeing the country I had absolutely no idea where I was heading to. I only wanted to get out of the country. Think of the pain of the thought of not being able to go to your home country until a period of time you do not know about? I did it based on genuine reasons.
Freedom Newspaper: Why was the opposition not given voice by the Daily Observer during your tenure? Have you ever assigned any reporter to interview Ousainou Darboe, Halifa, or Hamat Bah?
K Cham: I have done so on some occasions. As for Amat, I have interviewed him myself, although it was on the phone. Besides, the system in place did not guarantee that their ideas were published fully. Those were some of the issues I raised in my report. It was not just about Chief Manneh. I thought we could have made the paper a little bit better by giving some space to divergent views thereby making our paper more credible.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you support the APRC?
K Cham: I was not and I am not a registered member of any political party.
Freedom Newspaper: I know you are supposed to be independent as a journalist, but that does not deny you the right to support a party. What is bad is to pledge allegiance to political leaders. Do you agree?
K Cham: I agree, and that is why I never openly pledged any allegiance to any political party. I support government not political parties. Within the period of my stay at the Observer, I supported the development directions of the government.
Freedom Newspaper: What would you say to people saying that you are trying to secure political asylum by making such unsubstantiated claims against the Jammeh Government?
K Cham: I have been receiving such loads of mails on that subject that I do not have the time to respond to all. But I hope they will get to understand me later.
What I have left behind is more important than what I do not know about ahead of me in the country that will issue me asylum. I was supposed to register for the last course that would have had me qualified for a degree in Biology. As it stands now, I have virtually lost that chance, after four years of crisscrossing the greater Banjul Area. Besides, I lived a relatively modest life as editor-in-chief of the Observer, with the chance of traveling across the world. Do you think I could have just given that up for a prospect that is not certain at all? Absolutely not.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you know President Jammeh at a personal level? What kind of person is President Jammeh?
K Cham: He is just like anyone of us, except that he is different from you and I, like every one of us are in terms of our unique individual abilities. I have never met him quite closely; only handshakes and a few interviews at the airport on the last few of his trips abroad. I have great respect for him. I only hope he will be able to make out the good ones out of the bad ones from the people around him; the likes of Momodou Sanyang who are staining his government.
Freedom Newspaper: Do you think Jammeh will relinquish power peacefully?
K Cham: Peacefully? I have absolutely no doubt that when his time is up, he will; either by way of death or the ballot box. Why not?
Freedom Newspaper: Why are Government officials friendly to the Observer reporters? What is the secret here?
K Cham: It is a very big illusion that government officials are friendly to the Observer. As a matter of fact many of them do not support the president. So many, many people are not happy with many of the things we write. They do not talk to us. Can’t you see that whatever we write is about President Jammeh? Information no one can deprive us of? You think we just do not want to publish some of these information? No. Officials sell them to other newspapers and leave us in the cold. We only get staled information Momodou Sanyang first made sure GRTS airs before sharing them with us. Otherwise we depend on workshops, conferences and the like.
Freedom Newspaper: Is Chief Manneh alive?
K Cham: I hope so.
Freedom Newspaper: But President Jammeh said his Government does not detain Chief Manneh. Who is telling the truth here?
K Cham: If the free world rallied and petition Pa Malick Faye, Dr Taal and Momodou Sanyang, we will soon know. I for one, I am urging travel band, freezing of assets, alongside some penalties for these people. That will further serve as a deterrent for future cases like this. One thing I am certain of is that Chief Manneh is in the hands of the National Intelligence Agency of The Gambia (NIA).
Freedom Newspaper: What make you believe that you were going to disappear like Chief Manneh?
K Cham: Because the same people who are responsible for his disappearance were after me, and they had the very same NIA who picked Manneh up involved.
Freedom Newspaper: Why is the Daily Observer preoccupied covering stories which have no bearing or relevance to the plight of Gambians. Are you guys just there to promote Jammeh’s agenda?
K Cham: That is exactly the editorial line.
Freedom Newspaper: Is it correct to label Observer reporters, and Editors as CHECK BOOK journalists. That you are paid to publish whatever information given to you by the Government.
K Cham: If that is the meaning of checkbook journalism, then you might as well be correct to say so. That will mean that all of us are checkbook journalists, because we are paid for the reports we make.
Freedom Newspaper: If all what you saying are true, why didn’t you resign?
K Cham: Remember I wasn’t sacked, I left, which effectively means resigning, because you do not expect me to go back.
Freedom Newspaper: Did you regret working for the Daily Observer?
K Cham: When I think of some of the regrettable things that happened during my stay there? Yes. But when I think of some of the good things that happened in my time, I feel good.
Freedom Newspaper: Don’t you think you should apologize to Gambians for being part of misinformation machinery all these years? Will you apologize?
K Cham: Whatever piece I have written during my stay at the Observer I stand by it. So I have no apologies to make. Having said that, of course, as a human being, I may have offended a number of people at some point at a personal level; in that case, my apologies.
Freedom Newspaper: Does Saidibou still work at the Observer? I mean the photographer?
K Cham: There is no photographer at the Observer presently named Sadibou. But I was told that a Sadibou who now works at the State House was at the Observer. Probably he is the one you are referring to. He has since been transferred to State House in Banjul. He is quite a good photographer, and he shares some with us when our largely lazy and difficult-to-deal-with photographer failed to bring in something acceptable.
Freedom Newspaper: Sadibou should have been a millionaire if he was living in the West. He knows his job to the tip of his finger. Do you agree?
K Cham: I agree he knows his job.
Freedom Newspaper: How is life in exile?
K Cham: Well, the thought of leaving my mum and dad and brothers and sisters behind is torturing. But I hope this will end soon.
Freedom Newspaper: Don’t you think you should get in touch with your God mother Neneh to plead with Jammeh to enable your safe return to the country?
K Cham: My preoccupation is not to return just now, because I want to be safe. And I do not see that condition there at present. Let’s hope this will end soon.
Freedom Newspaper: You sound very critical in your writings. Why don’t you employed the same trend of writing while in The Gambia? Or is it because you fear the NIA?
K Cham: If you relocate Freedom to The Gambia I will come along with you and write on issues like this. I do not know if you will be willing to publish them though.
Freedom Newspaper: Any last words?
K Cham: I think we can make more impact with regards to changing the situation in Gambia if we become a little bit reasonable than we are presently in terms of what we publish online. You tend to be more personal in your attacks on the president. And you are sometimes not objective.
To add on to that, I am urging the rest of the free media fraternity, Gambians abroad, I mean, to help redirect the heat on the disappearance of Chief Manneh on the suspects rather than on President Yahya Jammeh.
Because of the manner in which I left Gambia, I was only able to come out with only my briefcase and my laptop computer. It used to take me up to a whole month without touching my laptop. But now, it is the loveliest of my properties. I enjoy the fact that I can write and express my views at free will. I really feels good.
Freedom Newspaper: Thanks Mr. Cham for granting us this interview.
K Cham: You are welcome.