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Journalist Quits Journalism for Business after Government Shut down Daily Observer

Over one hundred staff including a young mother, Fatoumatta K. Saidykhan were sent into an already growing unemployment category of The Gambia when the government closed down the country’s biggest newspaper, Daily Observer in 2017. While a few were accommodated in other newsrooms, several were made redundant. The closure also entirely killed their passion for journalism, making dozens of staff of the defunct paper to engage in a totally different profession.

Daily Observer was closed down in the early part of President Adama Barrow’s administration due to its alleged failure to pay tax amounting to several million Dalasis. But it was also largely believed that the closure was linked to the paper’s status as a pro-Jammeh medium which was only engaged in image-making of the former dictator Yahya Jammeh.

                   Fatoummatta showing-casing shirts she sells

Fatoumatta worked for the Daily Observer for six years, mainly reporting on youth developmental activities. She was on her confinement leave when the government announced the closure of the paper. She received the news with shock because she was anticipating getting back to work a few months later – especially to have a taste of the newly found press free environment. But she was disappointed and scared of what to do next in life after learning that all efforts to reopen the paper were merely an empty dream.

“After my confinement leave, I started going to some media houses to look for employment. But after I realized that it is not a progress for me working at those places due to unfavorable working conditions, I stopped. Their pay wouldn’t sustain me,” she told The Chronicle.

She indicated that the paper’s closure has affected the staff including herself. Daily Observer according to her, employed over 100 staff including the reporters, graphic designers, and printing unit among others.

“We had responsible people there including both men and women who are in charge of families. Most of them are not engaged in any meaningful job.”

She blamed the authorities for shutting down the company without providing any alternative to them as a means of survival.

“And now they put us in the dark. Several of my colleagues are sitting and their passion for journalism has been turned off. Some of these people only studied journalism and that means before they could do anything else, they must go back and learn a new field again to be fit for certain employment,” Fatoumatta told The Chronicle.

This frustration has left Fatoumatta thinking what to do next to sustain a livelihood. She decided that entrepreneurship is the answer to her worries.

“I am now a trained entrepreneur by ‘Tekki-fi.’ I sell scarves, shea butter, pads, sprays, watches and more.”

At the start of the venture, she was making shea butter for her personal use and sharing with friends before the community validated her products. She then put in on sale.

“I was giving it to customers who would pay me by installment on a weekly basis. I realized that it was going good and decided to expand it,” she said.

And she is enjoying the new venture more than the journalism she liked and practiced for years because the former gives her more time than the latter.

“To work for people and for oneself are different. I practiced journalism for six years and I realized that if you’re working under someone, the person tends to control you. Journalism calls for concentration and there is no time – anytime there is coverage, they will call you. The management always like you to appear anytime they need you. But this one, I come at the time I wish to come without anyone compelling me.”

She is not tempted to rejoin her old field due to her newfound safe haven.

“For me, it’s difficult to go back to journalism because I am already integrated in a new venture. Going back would mean that I would need to settle down there again. I missed the media, I missed writing and I missed several things in it.”

“My new business is progressing well. I started it late and I can say my progression is up to 40 percent. There is hope,” she told The Chronicle.

However, she frowns at the level of patronization the businesses are getting from the public, saying it is low.

“Most of the sales we have been making are coming from ourselves. Is like we are patronizing one another here.”

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