20 August 2018

Gambia: I Have No Penchant for Pettiness a Response to Dr. Henry Carrol

opinion

A nation needs its best minds to be engaged in serious discussion on how to move it forward and not to waste time in endless wrangling over non issues. What is the use of writing a whole book on an unknown journalist when a thousand and one important issues are waiting to be clarified? I am only giving a reply to your contention out of necessity. As a matter of fact I have no penchant for pettiness.

I am a sixty seven year old grandfather with grown up children. I have high respect for you like I do for all my fellow citizens and other human beings at large, and would like you to have all the honours that you deserve. As you have rightly said I am not a legal practitioner. May be you are too young to know or you may just be closing your eyes to the fact that I was a sixth form teacher in mathematics and physics and have taught many prominent personalities in The at Gambia High school where I served for many years. Many of my students have become civil and mechanical engineers, medical doctors, chartered accountants, managing directors, ministers and constantly show appreciation for my professional capabilities in teaching physics and mathematics. Many parents are still approaching me to give physics and mathematics classes to their children although I now have limited time. I have also published books for the school system and intend to publish more in both mathematics and physics and even journalism. It is strange that you are accusing me of being a hater of intellectuals when I have taught many intellectuals who are now occupying positions and display high regard for me wherever I meet them.

I can remember launching a play with lead actors and actresses who have become lawyers and engineers. Ex-president Jammeh was an actor in one of my plays staged while he was a student at Gambia High School. I am sure that if I was an opportunist I would have accepted his offer to be a minister in the first days of the coup in 1994. I hope you will also bear in mind that my arrest after the 1981 coup emanated when the list of would be ministers under Kukoie's government was handed over to the government after those who fled to Cuba decided to return to The Gambia and mentioned that Kukoie had the intention to make me minister of education. The former Director of Immigration Mr. Mohamed Tambajang was also arrested with the allegation that he was also part of the list. It is therefore futile for you to try to give the impression that there is any reason for me to hate anyone because of intellectual achievement or social status. You have tried everything in the book to evade the point at issue just to cover unpleasant facts with angry invectives.

Who on earth will take you seriously when you accuse me of cowardice? Who defended me when I was taken to court for defending Deyda Hydara's honour?

It is evident that there is no iota of truth in your allegation of cowardice. If there is any force in this country that has been countering and restraining impunity under the Jawara, Jammeh administrations and even today, Foroyaa will be counted among the most consistent. Your opinion however is your opinion. I have no intention of arguing with you for you to change your impression of me.

Let us now move to the point at issue.

In your reply published in The Voice Newspaper of Friday 17 August 2018, your first contention is to refute my allegation that "... you have mentioned my name in an article, attributing to me what I have not said or written in any newspaper or media establishment."

In your response, you wrote: "... .this is a monumental lie or an unacceptable terminological inexactitude in my aforesaid well publicized article entitled, PRESIDENT BARROW MUST NOT DISCLOSE NAMES OF ANY JOURNALIST."

Putting the crudities in your uncouth assertions aside, I will now put the evidence that you gave to refute my allegations before the judgment seat of the public. You claim the following: "... the only time I briefly mentioned your name, was when I wrote in my said article the following: 'After His Excellency President Mr. Adama Barrow, made the aforesaid alarming remarks about the said journalists, a plethora of Gambian journalists (notable among them were: Ms Fatou Camara, the founder of The Fatu Network, Mr. Bah alias "Scribbler Bah", Mr. Sam Sarr of Foroyaa Newspaper and Mr. Musa Sheriff of The Voice Newspaper came out openly and aggressively, and asked our calm and well-composed President, to compulsorily disclose the names of the aforesaid journalists, to the general public.'"

Dr Carrol, did I come out openly and aggressively and asked the President to compulsorily disclose the names of the said journalists? Where is your evidence? Where is your quotation that confirms what you have asserted? The simple dictum of your noble profession (not mine) is that he who asserts must prove. Where is your proof that I Sam Sarr openly and aggressively asked the President to disclose the names of the journalists? Since you could not quote anything I have said to prove your assertion you resorted to circumstantial evidence. What is your circumstantial evidence?

You said: "... in the Thursday 2 August 2018 publication of the Voice Newspaper there was a front-page coloured article entitled: "MEDIA CHIEF'S REACT TO BARROW'S ALLEGATIONS AGAINST JOURNALISTS. In a coloured photograph which accompanied the publication of the said article the following personalities where visibly displayed. From left to right: His Excellency President Mr. Adama Barrow, Mr. Musa Sheriff a Co-Proprietor of The Voice Newspaper, Ms. Fatou Camara, the proprietor of the Fatu Network and you were standing at the back of them, holding a microphone in your right hand, with your mouth open. Do not tell the reading public that you were not speaking, but only posing for the camera. This is clear admissible documentary evidence that at the time that photograph was taken you were speaking. Of course His Excellency President Mr. Adama Barrow never in fact posed with the three aforesaid Gambian journalists. His photogenic photo was just cut and pasted there, to deceive the reading public. "

Dr. Carrol, I will not be impolite as you to describe your reference to the photographs at the front page of the Voice Newspaper as a monumental fabrication of evidence. I will simply explain in simple and clear terms that the picture published by the Voice Newspaper was cut and pasted at the front page of the Voice Newspaper, not because I spoke to the Voice Newspaper but just for the editors of the paper to put their own story across. I have never held any interview with the Voice Newspaper on this matter and I have not held any press conference. I had only one interview with one journalist who you quoted as follows: "Sam Sarr, Managing Editor of Foroyaa Newspaper has reduced the President's allegation to a trivial matter, saying the allegation cannot be verified or relied on since the President did not give any name(s).The veteran journalist told The Fatu Network that journalism is a noble profession and a journalist is someone who is in pursuit of the truth to ensure that the government is held accountable and inform the public with balanced, accurate and factual stories. This can be done only with an independent mind," Sam Sarr said. "You cannot have an independent mind when you are bought," he added.

Here you have attempted to quote what I have said. Where in this quotation have I openly and aggressively asked the president to disclose the names of the said journalists. On the contrary the journalist who interviewed me claims that I was trivializing the matter to use his own words. This is the opinion of the journalist. As far as I was concerned since the president has not revealed the names of the journalists the matter was not worth belabouring on. That is why the journalist quoted me as saying the allegation cannot be verified or relied on since the President did not give any name(s).Is this not an irrefutable truth? What more do you want me to say?

I went further to even propagate the code of conduct for journalists. It is therefore very clear that your quotations and circumstantial evidence all add up to prove that you accused me falsely and should in fact earn me an apology rather than a threat of prosecution.

Finally, you took up issue with me on the relevance of section 69 subsections (1) and (2) of the Constitution to the point at issue only to confirm in a roundabout way what I have said in few words. My bone of contention is simple. I emphasised that being fully conversant with the content of section 69 of the Constitution I would not be among those who would entertain the childish notion of being a busy body and call for the president to be taken to court to divulge the name of the journalist he was referring to in his speech. This is precisely why I would not be found to be among those who would openly and aggressively call on the president to reveal the names of the said journalists. This is why I tried to dissociate myself from any notion that I was among those who openly addressed the matter.

Secondly, I quoted subsection (2) of section 69 of the Constitution which indicates the circumstance in which an act or omission by the president could lead to court action and in such cases he would be represented by the Attorney General.

By way of clarification this is what I explained just after quoting section 69 of the Constitution: "It is therefore evident that any wrangling that the president cannot be taken to Court and forced to divulge the name of a journalist who allegedly asked to be bribed to publish favourable reports, is misplaced. Suffice it to say that the Attorney General would be the competent authority to advise or represent the President where it matters. I have not issued any statement indicating any plan to take the president to Court, to force him to divulge any information."

To conclude allow me to state that I hold no malice against any human being. Foroyaa as a media outlet has published many of your articles and will be willing to do so anytime you deem it fit to address it to us. Foroyaa journalists do here and there write opinions as facts which may escape the editor's careful scrutiny and when that happens they are duty bound to give apologies so as not to offend our readers. We consider this to be a virtue just as we see publishing rejoinders as a right to reply to what is published against an aggrieved person in the newspaper. Such good practices in journalism earn a media house credibility and not notoriety. I rest my case.

Samuel O Sarr, Managing Editor, Foroyaa

Gambia

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