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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ACTIVITY REPORT OUTGOING GPU PRESIDENT, NDEY TAPHA SOSSEH

Ndey Tapha Sosseh

ON THE OCCASION OF THE TRIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE GAMBIA PRESS UNION

Members, Colleagues, Partners, Friends of the Gambia Press Union,
Having addressed you at the opening ceremony, through Pa Momodu Faal, outgoing treasurer, let me express my delight at being able to join you by skype link this morning to account for activities/resources that this Union executive led by me since March 22, 2008, embarked on, implemented and spent in your name and on your behalf.


Three days of talks and discussions on the way forward is no easy feat, as I do have a lot to say, I’ll go directly into my report.
Our three years and three months of tenure have been very eventful, very visible, most times
under the microscopic view of State and other interested parties and as such had us on our toes, at all times. This, tiring as it may be, must be a good thing as we always felt pushed to deliver and to be upfront in our dealings with our membership, partners and the State.

CAPACITY BUILDING AND TRAINING
Strengthening Freedom of Expression Protection in The Gambia
The GPU in partnership with ARTICLE 19 (main applicant) applied for support under the EU
Non-State Actors Programme to jointly implement programmes in Freedom of Expression,
Media Standards, safety and security of journalists and advocacy.

The objectives of this project are to:
Strengthen and protect freedom of expression in The Gambia in order to promote
transparent and accountable government;

Enhance the capacity of Gambian journalists and its umbrella organization, the GPU to
defend their right to freedom of expression and protect themselves against censorship
and persecution;

Engage government, civil society and other key actors in dialogue about The Gambia's
international obligation to protect freedom of expression;

Increase quality of national and international awareness about freedom of expression in
The Gambia;
Three training workshops are to be conducted under this project: Freedom of Expression
Standards training, the safety & security training and the advocacy training. Trainees (the best of the team) will also get other incentives such as work placements in the Article 19 Dakar Office, some Senegalese media and advocacy institutions to enable them better understand and appreciate the role of the journalist, strengthened and capacitated press union, members.
It is anticipated that the future GPU and media leaders will emerge from such types of targeted interventions and will help improve free expression situation in the Gambia. As part of this project, GPU has been able to chip a lawyer on retainer basis.
Under this partnership, ARTICLE 19 will transfer 20,610 Euros to the GPU based on the
following timeline: (a) 40% (8,244 Euros) two weeks upon signing of the contract and receipt of the initial project funds from the European Commission (b) 50% (10, 305 Euros) two weeks upon submission of first progress report (c) 10% upon receipt and approval of all outputs, final narrative and financial report from the European Commission.

The GPU is responsible for implementation of all project activities in The Gambia based on the project work plan, namely:
Coordinate the organization of training programmes including selection of participants
·
Conduct monitoring of FoE trends in The Gambia and draft reports
·
Supervise local project staff
·
Reach out to media houses and other civil society organizations and government officials
·
The project started in April 2011 and first course announcement for the Freedom of Expression training with the deadline for applications Friday, June 24, 2011.
Media for Development – Development for Media (GPU/GAMES Partnership Project II)
Training of Trainers (Professional Reporter) Course:
·

A component of the 30-month MEDIA FOR DEVELOPMENT – DEVELOPMENT FOR
MEDIA (GPU/GAMES Partnership Project II), is the ongoing training of trainers two-year
diploma course for 20 Gambian journalists. A direct response to an acutely felt need in the
Gambian media, where at the time, there was no structured basic journalism education in The
Gambia, the Union in its application of this project felt it was high time we took a decisive step to ameliorate the poor situation of the media in The Gambia.
Only a few of the working journalists have an educational background in the profession. Those few have been educated abroad. Besides, there is no capacity and set up for mid-career and further training of working journalists in The Gambia. This means that most of the working journalists are without formal education in journalism and without professional training as well. Newcomers to the media have no possibilities of acquiring basic skills in journalism as well as being updated on international developments in professional methods, technology, the role of the media etc.

The Course was announced in the summer of 2009 and applicants invited. We received 48
applications. All applicants were invited for written tests as well as an oral interview; only 20
candidates made the grade and were enrolled for the course that started in December 2009.
The entire course (Professional Reporter) is divided into four semesters of 4-6 months each.
Each semester the trainees take courses in core journalism skills, pedagogy and general
knowledge. The multi-disciplinary approach is meant to enrich and deepen the
trainees’ understanding of the issues that shape and influence the practice of journalism.
During the first semester, participants took cross-cutting courses in public administration and good governance as well as public sanitation – waste management in The Gambia. In this area, there was excellent collaboration between the GPU, the National Environment Agency, the Banjul City Council and the Kanifing Municipal Council. In the second semester, the GPU worked with CIAM – Centre for Innovation against Malaria – to provide lectures on the malaria epidemic in The Gambia. The trainees researched and wrote articles on various aspects of the disease.
Like the first and second semesters, the GPU collaborated with ActionAid International The Gambia to provide lectures on agriculture and poverty in The Gambia. The trainees are still doing their esearch on the link between agriculture and poverty in The Gambia.
Four of the trainees have been officially expelled from the course due to poor academic
performance or indiscipline or both. Each trainee is expected to, at the at the end of the two years be able to teach as well as practise journalism. So that when the GPU School of Journalism is up and running, the bests of the trainees can serve as assistant tutors under the guidance of seasoned trainers.
The first TOT session ended on 16th June 2011. During this session, a total of 24 journalists in the provinces were trained in basic journalism skills by the trainees of the Professional Reporter course guided by a course consultant Mr George Christensen who was recruited by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ). The TOT course was divided into two batches of 12 participants each.
Each batch underwent the training for four days. The next session of the TOT course is December 2011. But in between, there will be one or two on-site visits to assess the performance of the beneficiaries. The rationale is to have a pool of well-trained reporters across the country who can work as stringers for the media houses based in the Kombos.
Training of GPU Executive and Staff
·

Under the project, the GPU Executive and staff of the secretariat are also to undergo four
training sessions on management, entrepreneurship, resource mobilization, advocacy and
lobbying. So far, two sessions have been held. The first session was on management, while the second session was on strategic planning during which the 2011-2013 Strategic Plan was
formulated. A local consultant is hired for this component of the project.

The project fund of DKK 998, 300 is divided almost evenly between the administration of the
project in both Denmark and The Gambia. Tickets for the Danish trainers, their accommodation, their per diems, their malaria vaccination and their insurance, project monitoring, project evaluation, auditing in Denmark and administration take up DKK 302, 159 (approximately 1,208,636 Dalasis) By contrast, the investment in the computer laboratory and other accessories, awards ceremony, stipend for trainees, training sessions for GPU executives, publications of articles, salaries for local staff, auditing in The Gambia and telecommunications cover DKK 696, 141(2,784,564 Dalasi)

In his report published in the Games Newsletter February 2010, the Danish Project manager Mr. Jorgen Ringgard has this to say: “Along the way it has been a challenge to fit the activity costs to the budget we have. Alota has had a hard job to make ends meet by adjusting, cutting, negotiating cheap services etc. We have now a revised budget, just approved by Danida, which makes it possible to maintain the objectives and still keep a robust reserve.”
Institutional Capacity Building
·

As part of institutional capacity building inputs earmarked for this project, technical inputs for the Union include a fully equipped training lab with:
1. 15 flat screen Computers
2. Flat Screen TV
3. Printer
4. Overhead Projector
5. DVD Player
6. Wifi (monthly internet connection)
No Cost Extension, Games GPU Partnership
·

Following our election in March 2008, realising that there were un-used funds in the
GPU/GAMES partnership activity and that the project cycle was to end in October 2008, we
approached GAMES, our implementing partner to consult DANIDA on the possibility of a five month extension of the project cycle to March 2009. This was approved and the new leadership took this opportunity to put in place mechanisms allowing a more targeted capacity building of an effective organisation for:
1. Management, administration and accounting
2. Project development planning and implementation
3. Income generation
4. Networking for media development with national and international partners.

An additional capacity building mission from Games focusing on strategies, plan of actions,
management and project development, and we jointly worked on the first ever GPU Stratic Plan 2009-2011. The Secretary General of including consultants from the neighbouring Senegalese SYMPICS (Syndicats des Médias et des Professionnels de l’Information et de la Communication du Sénégal) also came on board as a consultant to train the new executive on Collective Bargaining Techniques.


GRTS Building
Training of GRTS Radio Staff
The training, proposed to have been held on 2nd to 12th November 2008, was to be supported by the International Media Support and two GAMES volunteers. For the IMS to release the
allocated funds and to enable the trainers plan their sessions, the GRTS was required to, through its director general or an appointee, responsible for training, fundamentally approve of the project and its time frame (November 2nd to 12th 2008) by signing the attached contract with his/her signature by September 15th 2008.
Unfortunately despite meetings between the Department of State for Information, Communication and Technology, GAMES and GPU, the required approval was not received and the project did not materialize.
The Union and the Gambian media lost out on much needed funds and inputs to strengthen the capacity of our public media.

Partnership for Capacity Building and Media Freedom in The Gambia
The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with the GPU and the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE) launched, in November 2010 a 20-month programme to equip media workers in The Gambia with human and material resources to enable the Union in particular and Gambian journalists generally respond with greater effectiveness to repressive and punitive media laws.

The main objectives are to enhance the skills of journalists and editors, increase communication among all Gambian media professionals, strengthen the GPU and sub associations that represent journalists and work to protect their rights; advance the cause of good governance and basic freedoms, build skills among journalists and to support the organizations in their efforts to build a stronger media community.

It involves four components – 1) management assistance to organizations that work to support journalists; 2) legal assistance to the associations to refine their strategies to respond to punitive laws; 3) training for young journalists and bloggers, and skills-building for mid-career professionals; and 4) improved communication among journalists to strengthen professional networks.

The program seeks to meld training in journalistic skills, ethics and management with the array of possibilities offered to media through the use of digital tools. Provision for legal support, protection for journalists is also earmarked under the project. The singular goal of these combined efforts is to bolster media reform in The Gambia through capacity-building support for media associations and outreach and training on media skills and freedoms.

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor was partly negotiated by Mr Alagi Yerro Jallow, of the now shut down Independent newspaper, based in the United States.

Due to some concerns of the GPU in particular the fact that we were not involved in the
recruitment process etc, the negotiation was a long process. The project took off in November
2010 with Mr Alieu Sagnia as country director. The Gambia Press Union is the major partner,
while the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE) is an associate
partner. The funds of the project are independently handled by its coordinator and the fund
providers. Under this project, the GPU receives a sub grant of 10,800 US Dollars. This amount is payable in quarterly installments is paid to assist with office operating costs such as rent, utilities and GPU staff support to the project. Out of the 5400 US Dollars received so far, 3895 US Dollars has been spent on rent, extending the tenancy of the GPU Secretariat until September 2012.

Mr. Amadou Taal, consultant for the project has recently completed a survey on media houses, preparatory to the management workshop that will be conducted for media chiefs by an ICFJ consultant.

UNDEF Project (Participation, Voice and Human Rights)
The GPU applied and benefitted from a UNDP/AAITG/ACDHRS implemented UNDEF
programme to raise the Capacity of mass Media in promoting human rights and good
governance.
Under this programme, capacity assessment exercises focusing on the management capacity,
operational/ organizational capacity, adaptive capacity, advocacy capacity as well as (financial) reporting capacity was undertaken. Specific training programmes, manuals and procedures were drawn out including a Human Resources and Financial Management Manual were produced and are now used by the Union Secretariat.

Two training sessions, one on management (Union executive and staff ) at the MDI and the other on legal and human rights issues will be carried out by the Real Time Consulting recruited by implementing partner African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS).

Resources Mobilization·
Between May 25th and June 2nd 2009, as a beneficiary of the UNDEF project implemented by Action Aid, The Gambia, the executive and staff of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) benefited from a training course on Resources Mobilization.

At the end of this activity, undertaken by Afri Consult (recruited by ActionAid) the Union
executive and staff:
Formulated and developed a fundraising strategy and plan
·
Acquired skills in project proposal writing
·
Identified mechanisms to strengthen relationships with partners/donors
·
Identified and targeted diverse sources of funding
·
The GPU Fund Raising Strategy was validated on December 2 2009 at a workshop which
brought together the Union leadership, staff, members, advisors and partners.
The project was aligned with the Governance and Human Rights component of the 2007-2011 UNDAF and UNDP’s country programme core areas of focus.

Legal training
The rife self-censorship due to a genuine misunderstanding and or lack of understanding of
media related laws, even within private media entities has perpetuated a poor representation of salient issues affecting Gambians. The critical state and threatening legal circumstances which the Gambian media continues to find itself requires sustainable new ways and channels of intervention that will a) not require a high level of cooperation with Gambian authorities and b) effectively influence media practitioners understanding of the laws governing the environment within which they operate, and the context in which national media and communications related laws and policies relating to the media and other issues of concern to the media - freedom of expression, human rights, good governance - exist and the influence that the GPU and other concerted actions can have upon them.

The prosecution of journalists is a major factor affecting freedom of expression, recent cases
where journalists have found themselves in conflict with the law include the Lamin Fatty
‘Publication of False Material” trial, the Sedition charges against Fatou Jaw Manneh and the
trial of Seditious Intention of Today Editor, AbdulHamid Adiamoh, at the time pushed the Union executive into organizing ad-hoc legal training sessions

Partly due to these, the Union on an ad-hoc basis in 2008/2010 organized training
sessions/seminar to enlighten our executive, publishers, editors and general membership on the basics of the laws affecting them in the course of their work, how to take advantage of and find ways of better navigating around these to avoid becoming victims of the law.

Online Security
In November 2009, the Union conducted a one week training activity for its executive, staff and members on online security. Costing US$6,100, the activity was financed by the US Embassy.

THE GAMPRINT PROJECT
As part of its engagement with Media Owners following a consultative exercise with our
members and a bid to negotiate for better salaries and working conditions, the Union was
astounded by the daunting challenges and difficulties faced by the Newspapers in accessing and affording purchase of printing materials in particular newsprints, plates and inks, through the importation, storage and distribution of newsprints to private print media houses.
With other partners, we encouraged (following our first strategy retreat) media owners to
organize and form the Gambia Editor’s Forum, establishment of a modern printing press facility to print all private newspapers and magazines and provision of technical support. It will also build and strengthen the professionalism of media practitioners, mainstream human rights advocacy of gender issues in their operations, as well as enhance the institutional capacity of the Media Houses in general.
The aim of the project is to increase Economic Viability and enhance the Institutional Capacity of the Media in The Gambia, improve the operating environment of journalists and media workers; create vibrant media that would better and effectively respond to the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people; ensure effective and competitive participation
of the private press on social, governance and development issues.

In March of 2009, the Union had approached the US Embassy, British High Commission and the IMS for support of a grant of US$ 19,600 of its Gamprint Project with the main rationale being that participating media houses will invest the accrued savings on improving the working conditions, environment of journalists and pay higher wages.

Other objectives were to:
To reduce the price of newsprints substantially (up to 38%) in order to ascertain the
·
economic viability of media houses thus strengthening them in the process.
To ensure that print media houses publish their newspapers regularly and on time.
·
To improve newspaper sales, increase production and circulation figures.
·
To strengthen the Editors’ Forum and the bond between the media houses by bringing
·
them together for a common purpose.
To strengthen the position of the GPU within the media fraternity.
·
Under the United States Democracy and Human Rights Fund, The Gambia Press Union a grant of 19, 600 US Dollars was approved by the US Embassy in August of 2009 of which US$ 14,105 was earmarked for Gamprint.

Implementing GAMPRINT has been a challenge for the Union. Sam Sarr of Foroyaa newspaper was instrumental in sourcing for suppliers in Indonesia, China, Dubai, India, Cameroon, Canada, and Cyprus without success. Most of the suppliers insisted on having a certain percentage paid to them before freighting the consignment down to The Gambia. The Union insisted on letter of credit, but they refused. This back and forth movement took over ten months.
Finally, the Union contacted a Senegalese National, Ale Lam who agreed to supply 52 grams newsprint (800 reams) to the Union at D450 per ream. With the extra costs of customs and transportation, the Union marked up the selling price to D550, as against the current market price of D675.
The Union spent D33,520 on Customs and D15, 000 on transport.
The Union would like to thank Foroyaa, The Standard and Today newspapers for patronizing the GAMPRINT Project. Only 90 reams are left from the first consignment. The first set of the second consignment arrived on the night of Sunday, June 19 2011. Evidently, the project has got off to a good start and all indications are that if we continue the good management of it, we will in the long term achieve our goal of engaging the media houses for the improved livelihoods of our members.

Printing Press
The GPU last month received a printing press from the US Embassy in Banjul. Recently
installed at the premises of the Standard Newspaper, the Union due to its earlier experiences has decided to run and manage the printing press. A fully fledged printing staff including operations manager, printers, lithographers, compilers will be recruited in order to commence work as early as beginning of July 2011.

Prior to this, the GPU Printing machine which was also donated by the embassy in August of
2006, was initially run by the Point Newspaper and later moved to Today Newspaper due to a
lack of accountability and failure to meet with contractual arrangements on the part of the two media houses.

REVENUE:
Two main sources of revenue for the Union are membership subscription and the printing press. At D10 per month with a membership of 200, the annual revenue from membership subscription is 24,000 Dalasi. The annual payment for the printing press is 100,000 Dalasi. So the total annual revenue of the Union is 124, 000.

STATE OF THE MEDIA
The GPU Six:
June/Sep 2009 - Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, GPU Vice President; Bai Emil Touray, Secretary General; Pa Modou Faal, Treasurer; Sam Sarr, editor, Foroyaa Newspaper; Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh Publisher and Editor were charged with "seditious publication", and two additional two charges of conspiracy to Commit Criminal Defamation and Criminal Defamation.
They were detained incommunicado, denied bail on two occasions later sentenced to two years imprisonment with a fine and later pardoned in September 2009.
These events followed the Union’s response to President Jammeh’s televised (GRTS), June 8
comments on the murder of/investigations into the death of former Union chairman Deyda
Hydara. A seventh journalist, Abubacarr Saidy Khan (Foroyaaa) was also initially detained,
charged and later acquitted.

Police also arrested Abba Gibba, news editor on The Point and Halifa Sallah, managing editor of Foroyaa and Augustine Kanja of the Point newspaper in events related to this case. They were later released without charge.

Funds were raised to assist the families of the six sentenced journalists with monies totaling
GMD 805231.50 (US$23,990) distributed evenly amongst all six journalists upon their release.
Prior to their release, some funds raised earlier had enabled the Union to contribute to giving the families’ of the beleaguered families some support for costs of school re-opening and the Koriteh feast.
Other funds raised for this included the legal fees which totaled US$15,000. This bill was fully financed by the Media Legal Defense Initiative.  A further US$1000 was raised and given to Abubacarr Saidy Khan.
The Union held a series of actions including a joint press conferences in Senegal, Accra, Abuja, London, Brussels, New York were held with SYNPICS, the IFJ Africa Office, the Senegalese Broadcasters Association, the Senegalese Committee to Protect Journalists, TAEF, MFWA, FAJ, NUJ (UK), IFJ, Amnesty UK and the TUC-UK, protest letters, picketing outside Gambian High Commissions demanding for the release of the journalists was coordinated by the GPU.

Pap Saine
February 2009, Pap Saine, Publisher of The Point Newspaper was called for questioning by the officers of the Serious Crime Unit re: his nationality and other stories related to the recalling of 3 Gambians working in the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
During the investigations, Police had asked him to produce his birth certificate, his father’s
passport and title deeds. During this period, Pap who has severe health conditions had also seen some deterioration in his condition which only worsened later that year when he was one of the 6 journalists, arrested and detained.
His legal fees on this case cost US$6000 and GPU approached partners to help offset these. Mr. Saine, later that year also went on treatment to the UK with ample support from partners of the GPU such as Reuters.

Abdul Hamid Adiamoh
On June 16 2009, Abdul Hamid Adiamoh, managing editor of Today newspaper was convicted and fined by Magistrate Sainabou Wadda- Ceesay of the Kanifing Magistrate court to pay the sum of D50, 000 or in default serve 6 months imprison.

This development follows his plea of guilty to charges of false publication and broadcasting
levied against him by the state. Mr Adiamoh was arrested on 10 June 2009 after his paper published that Secretaries of State for Justice, and the Local Government and Land- Mrs and Mr Marry Saine Firdaus and Mr Ismaila Sambou were sacked from their position.

Following the publication the police detained Mr Adiamoh, charged him and taken to court
yesterday and convicted today. He was given yesterday a court bail of D10, 000
In her ruling, Magistrate Wadda- Ceesay acknowledged the efforts of Mr Adiamoh to medicine the situation after realising his errors, but cautioned journalists to always verify their stories before publishing them.

Mr Adiamoh was supported by the GPU leadership to pay the fines on the spot. He temporally closed Today newspaper.

Fatou Jaw Manneh
Fatou Jaw Manneh
Fatou J. Manneh a US based Gambian journalist was arrested by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers on her arrival from the USA at the international airport in the capital Banjul on 28 March 2007.
She was detained for a week, during which time she was denied access to a lawyer or her family. On 4 April 2007 Manneh was charged on three counts of sedition under Gambia's criminal code: "intention to commit sedition", "publication of seditious words" and "publication of false news intended to cause public fear and alarm to the Gambian public". Manneh pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. A fourth charge, "uttering seditious words", was added on 20 June 2007.
The basis for the charges was articles by Manneh critical of the Gambian President,
Yahya Jammeh. On 18 August 2008, Fatou Jaw Manneh, was given a four year prison sentence for ‘sedition'; fined and released for writing articles critical of the President.
Fatou avoided imprisonment as the GPU paid the hefty fine of GMD 250,000. Family members and an anonymous donor also contributed.

Exiled Journalists
The exodus of Gambian journalists moving out of the country due to the unfavorable
environment continues to increase yearly. Between 2008 and 2010, those that the Union can
directly verify that their exile is linked to their work include Buya Jammeh, Kemo Cham, Abba Gibba, Momodou Justice Darboe, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Modou Nyang and Ndey Tapha Sosseh.
Buya Jammeh, Kemo Cham and Momodu Justice Darboe have all received financial support
from the IMS, IFJ, International Pen and CPJ. 


DEYDA HYDARA
The stalling into the investigations of the murder of Deyda Hydara on December 16, 2004 still continue to be a major concern for the Union. We continue our call on the Gambian authorities to ensure that no stone is unturned in these investigations and welcome the recent
announcement of the UK, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that the Gambia
Government have technically accepted their offer of independent expertise and investigations.

The FCO, who has been engaged by the Campaign for Human Rights in The Gambia (CHRG) Scotland whose coordinator Alieu Badara Ceesay is a GPU member and the Gambia Press Union leadership.
The Union in 2008/2009 and 2010 celebrated every year the anniversary of the murder of Deyda Hydara by organizing symposia and issuing statements.


Chief Manneh
CHIEF EBRIMA MANNEH
The disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, the Gambia Governments refusal to implement the decisions of the ECOWAS Court pertaining to his disappearance by refusing to release and compensate him US$200,000 is a worrying phenomenon.

Chief Manneh on the day of his disappearance 6 July 2006 was picked up by Plain Clothes
security personnel from his Place of work the Daily Observer. The Union, through GPU USA
has since 2008 maintained financial, household support for the Manneh family as chief was said to have been, at the time, the only working member and therefore breadwinner of his extended family.
Through the CHRG, GPU engagement with the FCO, his case has also been prominently
highlighted. He, like Deyda, was honoured by The African Editors Forum in October 2010 with the “‘Hero of African Journalism Award’.
Though bittersweet, the Gambia Press Union joined the two families in expressing delight that two of our two heroes were privileged to be recognized among five journalists (the late Norbert Zongo, Burkina Faso; Jean Leonard Rugambage, Rwanda; And, Pius Njawe, Cameroon) honored in all of the region.

Senator Richard Durbin of the US, also brought the issue of the continued detention of Chief
Ebrima Manneh and unsolved murder off Deyda Hydara to the attention of the US Senate in July 2008 asking the Senate to focus its attention on a tragic story from the small “West African nation of The Gambia.” He told the Senate that he agrees with Amnesty International’s consideration of Chief Ebrima Manneh as a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate release.
These arrests, detentions and charges make it extremely difficult for private medis to operate
freely in The Gambia and to maintain favourable working relationships with the government in spite of all efforts to do so.

NETWORKING/PARTNERSHIP BUILDING
Courtesy Calls on State Institutions/Gambia Gov’t Officials
Between March and September of 2008, the union initiated contacts with the State through the department of state communication, information and technology, national assembly and national Security Council. The union leadership expressed its willingness to work with the State institutions to improve the media and government relations.
In these discussions, the union also took the opportunity to remind the State representatives of their responsibilities concerning the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh and the investigations into the death of Deyda Hydara.



Federation of African Journalists
GPU attended the founding congress of the federation of African Journalists in Nairobi and was represented by the GPU president. I am glad to report to this congress, the GPU president was not only an elected officer of FAJ as treasurer but also the candidate that got the highest number of vote among 9 candidates.

Again FAJ organized its constitutional congress in Harare in March 2010. It was not possible for GPU to participate due to other engagements but colleagues in the continent reaffirmed their confidence in the GPU leadership and thus re-elected me in absentia as treasurer.


26th IFJ World Congress
GPU participated in the 26th World Congress of the IFJ in Cadiz, southern Spain. The congress was a critical one for the future of the IFJ. In his Presidential Opening Address, the IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, singled out the outstanding achievements and struggle of the GPU leadership and he saluted our courage and dedication to give a voice to Gambian journalists.

All Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (AHRD-Net)
April 20-23 2009, upon identification of the regional journalists Group, I, alongside journalists from the East, Central, Southern, North Africa regions represented the FAJ at the Johannesburg  +10 Conference All-Africa Human Rights Defenders Conference held in Kampala, Uganda.

The meeting brought together 85 human rights defenders from 45 African Countries and 33 partners from across the world.
At this meeting, I was elected into the steering committee of the All Africa Human Rights
Defenders Network (AHRD-Net), representing the journalists’ group. AHRD-Net is the
coordinating unit of the existing and functioning African human rights defenders networks. Its secretariat is hosted by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRDNet) in Kampala.

Since then, the GPU in consultation with FAJ has on at least two occasions identified
investigative reporter Fabakary Ceesay to participate in meetings of the West Africa Chapter of the network.

WAJA
As president of the GPU and second vice president of WAJA, I stepped down from the WAJA Executive board in March of 2009 following an appointment to serve as the Association’s Print Press Expert in its Project in Bamako, Mali.

WAJA insisted that the GPU stay on board as an executive member, and thus GPU Secretary
General, Bai Emil Touray, replaced me in the WAJA Executive.
In April 2010, WAJA held its Congress in Dakar and despite the fact the fact that the GPU
presented its Secretary General as a candidate, he could not obtain the required votes to hold
unto the position.

Amnesty International
In September 2008, I participated in an Amnesty International campaign consultative meeting
(Dakar) which served as follow up training on campaign and advocacy training held in The
Gambia in 2007 for media and human rights defenders.
Amnesty has been a staunch defender of Gambian journalists, recognizing Chief Ebrima Manneh as a prisoner of conscience and dedicating a large part of its report on The Gambia 2009 on the state of the media in The Gambia, highlighting in particular the case of the unsolved murder of Deyda Hydara.

Amnesty also supported the GPU to table a written report for the Gambia Universal Peer Review Mechanism (February 2009) and participate in the review in Geneva.

GPU USA
Though relations with the parent body have not yet been formalised, Gambian diaspora journalist groups, in particular the GPU USA has been very supportive and vocal on issues concerning journalists on the ground.

MLDI
The Media Legal Defence Initiative has also been a key partner of the Gambia Press Union,
giving financial support and legal aid when called upon. Representing GPU, I was part of the
launch team of MLDI in New York in January 2009.
This occasion also availed me the opportunity to meet and discuss strategies with Gambian journalists living in New York. CPJ/MFWA/ International Pen/OSJI/RSF/FAMEDEV/ Coalition for Human Rights The Gambia.

Following the arrest, subsequent trial, sentence, imprisonment and later pardon of the GPU 6,
between June and September 2009, the Union in collaboration with the Committee to Protect
Journalists, Media Foundation for West Africa, International Pen, Open Society Justice Initiative
(West Africa Bureau), FAMEDEV (Inter Africa Network for Women, Media ,Gender and
Development) and some of the partners mentioned above brainstormed and worked together on potential ways forward which included media advocacy, lobbying regional and international groups such as the ECOWAS, AU, ACHPR, UN, EU and foreign governments with missions in The Gambia.

Congress
The GPU was to hold this Congress in March of 2011, due to the nature of the activity we
wanted to hold and the financial resources involved, we had to shift the dates, upon consultation with members to June of this year.
We received support totaling Euro 4000 from the IFJ Africa Office for this event.
It is interesting to note that this year, as in the Congress of 2008, there was a keen demonstration in the union’s activities in the months leading up to Congress. We do hope, that like the years gone by, this interest will not wane after the Congress but that the zeal and the willingness on the part of the membership will continue and manifest itself in you taking ownership of the union.
It is your responsibility as GPU members to hold the incoming executive to account but to also work hand in glove with them to be able successfully deliver on the tasks that you assign them and goals of the Union.

APPRECIATION
As indicated in my opening remarks, service without checks and balances is of no use to you the leader and those you lead, therefore I am proud that the Gambia Press Union over the years has entrenched internal democracy, transparency in its dealings and stock taking as an integral part of the nature and functioning of our great Institution.
I’m also proud that in every aspect of Union management, for every pillar of the raison d’etre of our Union, this executive has raised the bar to such an extent that in every part of the world, in every home in The Gambia, the GPU is a common name and one that is synonymous to sacrifice, hard work and belief on our cause.

Of course there have been and there will always be the detractors, but as my policy has been andits one that I tried to push within this executive, no amount of distraction will push us into losing our focus, our resolve to deliver on the mandate that we accepted and sought you to trust us with. Since we came in as GPU leaders in March 2008, our main priority was to be make decisions, as an entity and to consult each other at all times in a very transparent, honest manner and at all times putting the interests of our membership first.

I would be unfair to my team, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Modou Nyang, Bai Emil Touray, Lamin Njie, Madi Njie, Pa Modou Faal, Buya Jammeh and Amie Sanneh if I do not single them out for their steadfastness and commitment to duty. It has been hard, long and tumultuous but we have arrived, and we have made a difference, I congratulate you all. The same goes to our dedicated staff, executive director Aloa Ahmed Alota, Fatma Tambedou, Accountant, Nellie Grant, Librarian/Secretary, Isatou Njie, cleaner. Our ICFJ partners Alieu Sagnia and Chilel… who also share our office space with us.

Unreserved thanks must be for GPU advisors Sam Sarr, Demba Jawo, Swaebou Conateh, Cherno Jallow, Amie Joof and George Christensen. Their experience, expertise and visionary outlook has at many times, dampened the fiery spirit with which this young executive would normally jump on issues and probably have acted differently.
I appreciate the genuineness demonstrated and support given. Ousman Sillah, Abdoulie John and Fabakary Ceesay are ordinary members who have gone over and beyond the call of duty to represent, to speak for and to defend the interests of this Union. Thank you for the support.
Our partners and friends we have made over the years have played an integral part to every
success that we have registered and every milestone gained, I thank our local partners in
particular the US Embassy, British High Commission, UNDP (UNDEF Project team), ActionAid The Gambia, UNESCO/NATCOM, Unique Solutions, FLARE,

Our international and regional partners have ensured that our agenda, our voice is being heard
and that will continue to be heard, we therefore thank the IFJ, FAJ, WAJA, SYNPICS, Amnesty International, GAMES (Danida), Article 19, CPJ, International Pen, OSIWA, OSJI, Reuters, RSF.

  • Delivered via Skype

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