By Lamin Sanyang
The Government of The Gambia in collaboration with the Gambia Press Union Thursday evening, February 16, organized a cocktail party at The Gaya Art Gaye, Senegambia to honor the return of exiled journalists.
The event has created the right opportunity for the returned journalists to rejoin their colleagues after spending many years in exile. It was emotionally touching watching journalists embraced their colleagues, it was tough for them to control their feelings. They have not seen each other for many years.
“It was depressing to leave your country by force. Life in exile was very tough,” Abubacarr Saidykhan said.
Saidykhan a journalist was working with the Foroyaa Newspaper. He was forced into exile when he and fellow journalist applied for a permit from the office of the Inspector General of Police to protest against the execution of nine prisoners by former president Yahya Jammeh. He has since lived in exile for several years.
“Many of us cried the whole day when feast like Tobaski or Koriteh were observed we missed our families and wanted to come home but we couldn’t knowing the risks involved,” he pointed out.
“Some people died in exile,” he added.
The exiled journalist commended the maturity of the Gambian people to remove dictatorship through the ballot box, saying the new government should nurture it.
“We call on president Adama Barrow to continue to respect the media and allow us to do our work freely,” Saidykhan said.
Abubacarr Saidykhan added that he expects to see a complete free media under the new administration and urged them to review the media laws, saying it will be very disappointing if the new government starts to arrest journalist.
Another journalist Sanna Camara has faced several arrests from the former government of Yahya Jammeh. He lived in exile for almost three years. He talked about the challenges he faced in a francophone country.
Camara was a human rights journalist working for The Standard Newspaper. He said he was investigating the issue of human trafficking of Gambian girls who were taken as commercial sex slaves to other countries. He said some senior officials in the former government were not happy with what he was doing.
“I started to gathered evidence that the government was involved in the trafficking when l was arrested and detained at Serious Crime Unit,” he explained.
The exiled journalist said he suffered several harassments and was advice to leave the country for his personal safety.
“What we need as journalist is for the government to consolidate the freedom that was earned from this election that the former government has denied us,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, James Gomez, told exiled journalists not to hesitate to bring their luggage to finally settle down.
“You are free in this new Gambia,” he remarked.
Minister Gomez told the pen pushers that the new government will be transparent, saying they are free to criticize whenever it is necessary.