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Journalist dismissed for serving in union executive position

(MFWA/IFEX) - Buya Jammeh, journalist with the pro-government "Daily Observer" newspaper, was on 25 March 2008, dismissed by the newspaper's management, after he was elected as an executive member of the Gambian Press Union (GPU).

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) sources reported that Jammeh's dismissal preceded an earlier directive for him to resign his position.

The sources said the Managing Director of the "Daily Observer", Dida Halake on the night of 24 March, called Jammeh on the telephone and asked whether he (the journalist) had a new job. In response, the journalist told him that he had only been elected as an executive board member of the GPU.

Not satisfied with the journalist's answer, Halake asked Jammeh to resign or risk being dismissed.

The sources said Jammeh, who had been working as a stringer for the newspaper, was ordered to leave the premises the following day, when he reported to work.

The dismissal of the journalist comes at a time when pro-government journalists suffered a massive defeat at the last GPU elections, which took place on the weekend of 22 March. The government was alleged to have sponsored some journalists to vie for executive positions in the union.

The "Daily Observer"'s director, who was unhappy with the outcome of the elections, accused the old executives of the GPU and the pro-opposition "Foroyaa Newspaper" of hijacking the Union, alleging that the former executives had undermined the GPU by registering drivers as union members.

The GPU is the only media organisation in The Gambia that the government has not been able to exert control over. Systematically, the 14-year rule of President Jammeh has been characterized by violence, murder, intimidation, and disappearance of journalists.

This repression has resulted in a number of independent journalists escaping into exile. Those within the country are practicing self-censorship as a means of protection.

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