Jammeh was violent against journalists – GPU SG tells truth commission

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Saikou Jammeh, GPU secretary general testifying before TRRC

By AMADOU MANJANG

Saikou Jammeh, the secretary general of The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) that Jammeh was violent against journalists,

He was testifying before TRRC chaired by Dr. Lamin J. Sise to give the version of human rights violations; against journalists during ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s regime.

He told the commission that certain media houses in the country suffered arson attacks describing Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of rule as a challenging period for journalists in The Gambia.

He said The Gambia had a very poor ranking in terms of press freedom above only countries like Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea.

He said Jammed called journalists deprecating names and threatened to jail them until they grow old and release so that they will not be able to do anything.

He also recalled Jammed saying people should not buy newspapers so that journalists can be starved to death.

He said former president Yahya Jammeh employed tactics meant to suppress the media so that Gambians would be kept in the dark.

Secretary General Jammeh described former Yahya Jammeh as no respecter of journalists who waged a war against journalists and used draconian laws and the courts to get them.

Enumerating the atrocities against journalists, he cited the killing of Deyda Hydara in December, 2004, the killing of Omar Barrow, a reporter with Sud FM Radio Station and a Red Cross Volunteer during the April 2000 student protest.

Saikou revealed to the commission that Sana Manjang and Kawsu Camara were named as the key suspects in the killing of Deyda Hydara.

The 34-year-old journalist who worked with The Gambia News and Report Magazine, The Voice, The Daily News, The Standard, Radio France International among other news outlets, said Deyda Hydara was killed two days after he made pronouncement that he was going to challenge the increment in the bond from D50,000 to D500,000.

He stated that the ECOWAS Court of Justice ordered Jammeh government to pay the sum of $50,000 and investigate the death of Deyda Hydara properly which it’s refused until when the current government honoured the judgment by paying the money to the family.

He also told the commission how Jammeh government had been inconsistent and giving conflicting information regarding the whereabouts and what happened to the disappeared journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh.

He recalled when Marie Saine-Firdaus, then Attorney General and Minister of Justice under president Jammeh said that Chief Ebrima Manneh was not in the custody of the state.

He added that Edward Gomes known as Edu who was also Attorney General and Minister of Justice told journalists that Chief Ebrima Manneh was alive, while Yankuba Sonko then Inspector General of Police said the disappeared journalist was somewhere in the United States.

Saikou said the GPU filed a suit against Jammeh government at the ECOWAS Court of Justice on the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh and the ECOWAS Court of Justice ordered Jammeh government to pay the sum of $100.000 to the family of Chief Ebrima Manneh which was also refused until honoured by the current government.

Pa Malick Faye and the late Sarja Taal former managing directors of Daily Observer were allegedly involved in Chief Manneh’s disappearance, adding that Dodou Sanneh, a journalist who worked with GRTS also met his death eventually died subsequent to physical paralysis as a result of the torture.

The GPU secretary General also recounted how Lamin Fatty, who worked for The Independent was arrested, detained prosecuted and convicted and fined D50,000 by the then trial Magistrate Buba Jawo, explaining the arrest and detention of Abdoulie Ceesay of Taranga FM, Alagie Jobe, deputy Editor-In-Chief of Daily Observer, Omar Bah, then journalist at Daily Observer.

Saikou Jammeh gave an intelligible history of Gambia Press Union, from the challenges of the first attempt for legal registration in the 1930 during the life time of Edward Francis Small a libertarian journalist to its year of birth, 1979.

In explaining GPU’s mandate, he told the Commission that the Union embarks on capacity building for its members, advocates for journalists and pushes the agenda for press freedom and freedom of expression.

He illustrated the GPU as the only man left standing in the Jammeh’s regime, for its resilience and stance in for journalists in those difficult days of the Jammeh regime.

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