By Bekai Njie
Gambia Press Union Secretary General (SG), Saikou Jammeh, has declared that the country’s new found democracy is at stake, with specific reference to the first hearing of the O.J. versus Kerr Fatou before the High Court in Banjul on Tuesday morning.
Kerr Fatou – an online news outlet earlier this year published a news article alleging that former Agriculture Minister Omar Amadou Jallow, commonly called O.J. had connived with a businessman to sell outdated fertilizers from the government stores meant for disposal.
Serving as Agriculture minister at a time, O.J. vehemently denied the claim and threatened to take legal action against the medium for what he referred to as tarnishing his image.
Mr. Jallow eventually filed a law suit for defamation, demanding D20M for damages.
When the case was mention this morning before Judge Amina Sawo-Ceesay packed courtroom, with Mr. Jallow and his attorneys, Lawyers Badou Conteh and Baboucarr Boye, Fatou Touray, the first defendant was absent but was represented by her attorney, A. Fatty. According to her lawyer, Ms. Touray was indisposed. Second defendant Mustapha K. Darboe was present in court.
However, Gambia Press Union’s Mr. Jammeh said the said case against Kerr Fatou is actually not just about the medium, arguing a lot is at stake for the Gambia as a country and our newly found but fragile democracy.
“A lot is at stake here, our democracy is at stake, the accountability of government and transparency is also at stake, he said. “It is not a matter of Kerr Fatou, it’s a matter of press freedom.”
“Kerr Fatou is getting every king of support that is needed,” Mr. Jammeh said. “We are going to show support, we are going to show solidarity, we are going to give any technical advice that we could give that is needed. GPU is very much fully behind Kerr Fatou.”
Jammeh said that witnessing a day like this when a medium is being dragged to court for doing its job is very sad.
“This is a very sad day for us, what is happening here is an unfortunate attack on press freedom coming from someone who has been a friend of the media,” he said. O.J. is someone who has not only been a friend I just told him that he has been one of the strongest supporters of press freedom in The Gambia.”
“Even if Kerr Fatou loses, we should all understand that in The Gambia, it is not Kerr Fatou that actually lost the case, it is freedom of expression and freedom of the press that lost so that is why every individual that has conscience in The Gambia, every institution that is here to protect democracy should stand their guards not allow this matter to even proceed.”
The case was adjourned to October 15, 2018.