I Salute Gambian Journalists
Since the TRRC resumed sittings in the aftermath of its infamous encounter with Yankuba Touray, the embattled erstwhile AFPRC junta stalwart, the Commission has shifted its focus to the agony that the heroic and gallant Gambian journalists had endured under the former Jammeh regime. Being the autocrat he was, Gambia’s former strongman never allowed anybody to challenge or question his actions so the few journalists who dared to step out of line by writing articles perceived to be critical of his regime or made statements that ran contrary to his line of thinking were subjected to untold brutality and torture.
Media practitioners who have appeared before the commission have articulately narrated their ordeals at the notorious defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Members of the media, dubbed by Jammeh as the illegitimate sons and daughters of Africa, were subjected to harsh questioning, electrocution, beating, kicking, slapping and trampling, Trumped-up charges were brought against Journalists, put on bogus trials, got convicted and subsequently jailed. Journalists were forced to write self-indicting statements at the NIA. Journalists were forced to apologize to the President. Journalists like Chief Manneh Manneh vanished with no trace and it is widely believed that he had died. Deyda Hydara was shot in daylight and died in cold blood. Some journalists faced assassination attempts, including the current Minister of Information Ebrima Sillah. The lucky ones were forced into exile. Media houses suffered arson attacks while the perpetrators got away scot-free.
Though the principled journalists had endured all sorts of ordeals, and worked under the most precarious and dreadful environment, they stood their ground and stood up for the truth. Our emerging journalists should look up to our illustrious journalists and draw lessons from their bravery and patriotism by standing by the truth no matter what.
We salute, celebrate and congratulate our journalists who chose challenge autocracy when it was not fashionable to do so. We pray for those who lost their lives and ask Allah to have mercy on their souls and admit them in the heavens. Never again will Gambians allow dictatorship to rear its ugly head in our beloved motherland.
Basidia Drammeh is a Gambian resident in Canada. He previously served as Head of Translation Desk at Kuwait’s Al Watan Daily newspaper and a Bilingual Editor for Kuwait Oil Company. Mr. Drammeh, who was born and raised in Brikama, is a keen follower of African politics.