By Yankuba Jallow
Pa Momodou Faal, an erstwhile treasurer of The Gambia Press Union Tuesday appeared before the TRRC and gave account of his arrest in relation to the 2009 GPU press release in reaction to ex-President Jammeh’s comment about the late Dayda Hydara.
Faal described Jammeh’s comment about the late Hydara as unfair and therefore, prompted the response from the GPU.
He said in 2009, The Gambia Press Union issued a press release in reaction to the statements by the former President in regards to the untimely murder of Dayda Hydara. He said the press release emanated from the then GPU President, Ndey Tapha-Sosseh who wrote an open letter to the ex-president and it was edited and issued like a press release. He said the press release by the GPU was first published by the Foroyaa Newspaper on the 12th June 2009, and later The Point published it three days later.
He said he was detained together with Pape Saine of The Point Newspaper, Sam Sarr of Foroyaa, Bai Emil Touray of the GPU and three others. He said he made a statement, but both Bai Emil Touray and Sam Sarr refused to give their statement to the investigators at the NIA. He said they (NIA) asked them some questions including their political affiliation and their monthly salaries. He said while at the NIA, his email was opened and the investigators retrieved his correspondence with Ndey Tapha-Sosseh including the press release.
He told the Commission that he was detained on the 15th June 2009 at the NIA for 3 days before being arraigned at the Kanifing Magistrates Court presided over by Magistrate Sainabou Wadda-Cisse. He said they were charged with sedition before the trial magistrate who refused them bail and remanded them at Mile II prison. He said the trial magistrate later granted them bail the following Monday.
He said on the same day, they were served with processes that their case has been moved to the High Court. He said they appeared before Justice Joseph W. who revoked their bail and remanded them at Mile II.
He described their trial as speedy and noted the trial judge later convicted and sentenced them. He said while serving their sentence, the ex-president pardoned them after serving only 27 days of their 2 – year imprisonment term at the Jeshwang Prison.
He said he was born on 26th April 1972 in Half Die Ward, Banjul. He was a founding member of the Muslim High School Press Club and became the first president of the club.
He said he started as a freelance sports reporter at The Gambia Daily in 1998 and in the same year, he joined Sud FM. He told the TRRC that Sud FM was a subsidiary of the Senegalese based Sud FM. He said he was attached at the Sports and Current Affairs Department of Sud FM under one Omar Barry who was assassinated during the April 2000 students’ demonstration that claimed the lives of some people.
He told the Commission that the former government wasn’t happy with the way and manner Sud FM was operating.
He said on 9th April 2000, he was informed by his boss the late Omar Barrow that there will be a demonstration by the students and he (Pa Modou) should do the live coverage of the events as they unfolded. In the morning of April 10, he said he was live on air doing the coverage of the demonstration at GTTI, West Field among other areas and he was doing live interviews of students expressing grievances to the former Government. He said he was reporting the event when the army was shooting the students with life rounds. He said he reported that the situation was chaotic as students were seen falling on the ground while others were running for their live. He said it came a time when soldiers came looking for him because they realized that Sud FM was doing live coverage of the demonstration. He added that he ran to GRTS building and was rescued by one Modou Joof and Jainaba Nyang who locked him in the toilets. He said sometime later, the soldiers came but were told by Joof and Nyang that he wasn’t at GRTS. He said at GRTS, one Peter Gomez told him that Omar Barrow was killed.
He said after the students’ demonstration, when he resumed work with the Sud FM, he couldn’t cope with the situation because of the feelings he had for his mentor and boss, Omar Barrow who was allegedly shot by members of the Gambia Armed Forces. He told the Commission that he resigned and joined the Independent Newspaper.
He said sometime in 2002, he returned to the Sud FM and continued with his job. He said Sud FM was shut down by agents of the former President who were in plain clothes while he was hosting a civic education programme. He said from Sud Fm, he joined The Point Newspaper as a freelance sports reporter and worked under the late Deyda Hydara. He said the demise of the late veteran journalist, Deyda Hydara coincided with his visit to Egypt where he was doing his Diploma course in Mass Communication. He added that he joined the GPU organized procession showing solidarity with Deyda Hydara and petitioned the Executive to investigate the death of Hydara. He said during the procession, some NIA agents joined them pretending to be journalists, but when these people were identified by journalists, they were chased out of the gathering.
He said sometime later, he joined the Daily Observer as freelance reporter and months later, he was appointed as a staff reporter. He indicated that at the time of his appointment as a staff reporter, the late Buba Baldeh who was the Managing Director of The Daily Observer told him that he should not report about politics, but that he should focus mainly on the developmental stories involving the Government.
He said in 2008, he was elected as the Treasurer of The Gambia Press Union and at this time, he was also a sub-editor at The Point Newspaper.
Sittings continues today.