|Madi MK Ceesay CEO/Publisher Daily News|
|GPU President Bai Emil Touray|
One of the weaknesses of the GPU and the Network of Human Rights Journalists (NHRJ), Ceesay said both has not act in their responsibility to issue a public statement on Chief Manneh’s five years disappearance 7 July, 2011, he stressed.
He pointed out that the case of Chief Manneh should be a continue campaign as far as press freedom is concern. “The first year anniversary celebrated by NHRJ is a good move, but should be continuity with funding or without funding from donors as far as media freedom is concerned. The momentum should continue, the day should be celebrated yearly," Ceesay repeated.
Mr. Ceesay who was one time serves as the president of the union stated that the GPU and NHRJ should be in the forefront in the campaign but was quick to say that the print media is doing its best by publishing articles, commentaries and features on Chief Manneh while GPU and NHRJ is silent on the matter.
This kind of silence, Ceesay said is not helping as he puts it, “what happens to Chief Manneh can happens to anyone in the media."The then called on the union is hold on to its unionism to marked the day and to add it in their calendar of celebrations, he continues, “I don’t know what is the reason why the press union did not issue a media release and did not celebrate the day just like the anniversaries that use to held for Deyda Hydara and William Dixon Colley,” Media Agenda Director expressed doubts.
“I sympathy with the old family of Chief Ebrima B. Manneh and wish to expressed my condolence to the bereaved family,” said Ceesay.
Mr. Ceesay expressed that for Chief Manneh to be missing from the family for five years is a difficult momentum for his parents and any other parent who might fall under the same situation.
He continued, "going missing for five years is very distressful to the family for two main reasons that is the fact that he (Chief Manneh) is the breadwinner for the family and he is no longer doing
that for the family."
Again, most important thing is that the parents of the family do not know his whereabouts for five years whether he is alive or death, which accordingly, make things more complicated and distressful for the Manneh family.
According to him, the family has lost contact with him and the media is still concern concerned saying that “We in the media have not seen him (Chief Manneh) for a good number of years now, therefore, the conclusion I will draw is that Chief Manneh is no more."
Therefore, "I expressed my condolence to his family,” and infact, “I am drawing the conclusion and basing it on facts that as far as for the past two years nobody is on record to say that he or she has set
eyes on Chief Manneh, so I based on that conclusion he is not alive.”
Ceesay went further to stated that what happens to Chief Manneh can happen to anybody whether been a journalist or not a journalist noting that records has shown that many Gambians are still missing under President Yahya Jammeh’s regime citing the missing of Kanyiba Kanyi among others.
“So to be missing in this country is not only for journalists but can apply to all as far as the present government is ruling,” debunked Ceesay.
The Gambian media, Ceesay said is operating under a very hostile environment saying that journalists in the country for the past years has been subjected to all forms of impunity- arrest, torture, prison sentence, burning of media houses, assault, and killings.
Going further, he said cited example of the killing of Deyda Hydara Co-Founder of the Point newspaper, Missing journalist Chief Manneh, attacked on Ebrima Sillah correspondent for the BBC, burning of the defunct Independent newspaper amongst other notorious crimes against the press.
He adds: “journalists in the country are risking their lives to get the masses informed because the environment is not conducive for operations especially the independent media.”
He also hailed the efforts of the press union for giving helping hands to the Manneh by making a donation through its external affiliate bodies.
The campaign on Chief Manneh which is said to champion by Daily News, Ceesay categorically stated that his paper is doing the massive publication on Chief Manneh for his release “if he is alive”.
“We need to keep intensive campaign, if outsiders to be specific the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) can take the matter to court what about we in The Gambia who knows him? He asked.
In fact, “am calling on all media houses, the GPU, NHRJ and even individuals to be active in the campaign for knowledge surrounding Chief Manneh’s disappearance, it should be not be one man business but all of us especially Gambian journalists.”
According to Ceesay, the state is distancing them from his arrest but was quick to say that the state cannot do it because the security forces –Police, National Intelligence Agents among other security apparatus do execute arrest of people in the country.
So, therefore, the state cannot clear itself from not arresting Chief Manneh. In addition, if the stated do not investigative the matter then they fails in their duties especially the security forces.
He stated that all the security forces are paid by the tax payers’ monies adding that they are mandated by the Gambian constitution and is their duty responsibility to look into issues surrounding to the disappearance of Chief Manneh.
“As a state, they can deny of holding him (Chief Manneh) but cannot escape from investigating his matters,” said Ceesay.
Therefore, “I will recommend the state to invite foreign investigators to be invited by the state to investigate the matter as we have seen it has work in the country when a British tourist was abducted, killed, and buried in the surrounding villages of Banjul.
“It only took the foreign investigators two weeks to find out the matter.”
In the case of Chief Manneh and Deyda Hydara, Ceesay called on the state to allow foreign investigators to look into the matters as it has took them many years to come up with concrete findings that can convince Gambians that they have investigated the matter.
He also spoke at length on the Newspaper amendment act and the criminal act that makes the work difficult for Gambian media saying that all these acts need to decriminalize as ‘soon as possible’ for
the free operations of media in the country.
On the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa that was done in Banjul, Ceesay said the government of the day is adherence to the declaration stating that the government has always been given ‘deaf ears’ to the declaration.
In conclusion, Ceesay called on the young journalists to read all kinds of books, newspapers, magazines and bulletins’ to improve their
“You need to educate yourself on the job, as well as make research as journalists and report nothing but only the truth because is only the truth can defend you.”
Again, “as young journalists, don’t need to be scare as far as you are reporting the truth, they can arrest and detain you by the virtue of their powers but the truth can set you free and it will be your
only defense,” he concluded.
When contacted, president Gambia Press Union, Mr. Emil Touray said the union stand is that The Gambia government should launched a Judiciary enquirers into the disappearance of Chief Manneh so as to
ensure those who have information or claimed to have information to come forward and testify before the inquiry board.
This, he added the union believed that can be an opportunity for the authority to prove into Manneh's disappearance adding that they also hold the believe that the authority to solicit external support from the international community to enable them to get to the subject matter.
He adds: " We believed that a judiciary inquiry will pave way for family members of Manneh, his co-workers at the Daily Observer and others to come forward and testify,"
GPU president clearly stated that impunity has no place in a decent society adding that it is the responsibility of The Gambia government to protect lives and properties.
Touray noted that the protection of lives and properties is clearly spelled out in the Gambian constitution noting that the government needs to go by the constitution.
Therefore, the state should use all its resources at its disposal to arrest the alleged abductors of Manneh and make them pay for their actions.
"If the move, I suggested is taken into consideration, this will have a positive effect on the maintenance of law and order in the country," he stated.
He also promised that the union will issue a statement on five years disappearance of Chief Manneh but was quick to say that 7 July, he was out of the jurisdiction.
Notwithstanding, the first vice president of the union Mr. Baboucarr Ceesay has granted an interview with Daily News on the matter, so that shows how the union is campaigning on the matter.
However, " we wish to implore relevant measures that are more
effective that the assurance of his release," said GPU president.
Notwithstanding, "the union will issue a public statement on Chief Manneh's five years disappearance after it has employed what I will called an effective measures," GPU Touray promised.
In efforts to contact the relevant authority to comment on the matter remains futile.