It was back in the year 2007, when Madi Ceesay, the former Manager of the defunct Independent Newspaper, received a funding in the sum of seventeen thousand United States dollars ($17,000) from the US based Open Society Foundation Institute (OSI) to purchase a landed property that will facilitate the securing for a new bond for the reopening of the Independent, Freedom Newspaper can reveal. The paper was closed by the Jammeh government in March of 2006, following the publication of a coup story. Its Editors were arrested, and tortured.
OSI was founded by the US billionaire George Soros. The New York based Committe to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was instrumental in securing the said funding for the Independent. Part of the arraignment was, if efforts to reopen the Independent were unsuccessful, the grant would be used to help train Gambian journalists.
Madi Ceesay, himself, proposed to the donors that he would use the funds to support independent journalism in The Gambia. That was what led to the formation of his media Agenda—non-governmental organization, which among other things; was to provide training and security for Gambian journalists.
Lamin Camara of the DANDIMAYO LAW CHAMBERS was the Lawyer for the Independent Newspaper at the time. Camara was instructed by Alagi Yorro Jallow to go to court to secure the reopening of the Independent Newspaper.
On July 17th 2006, Camara, wrote to the former Inspector General of police to inform him that he has been instructed by the Management of the Independent to pursue the reopening of the paper.
“As you are already aware the Independent Newspaper is and has been closed now for almost 4 (four) months now The Managing Editor and the Editor were both arrested and detained for almost 22 (Twenty-Two) days and later released without a charge. In a similar development a reporter for the same Newspaper was a arrested and detained for almost 63 (Sixty-Three) days and later released and charged,” Lawyer Camara wrote in a letter addressed to the IGP.
“Sir, am not aware of a court order for the closure of the Independent Newspaper and my client have not been informed either, of the reason(s) for the continued closure of the paper. Be that as it may, the Independent Newspaper have not committed anything to warrant a permanent closure without the proper procedure laid down by law being followed. In the circumstances therefore, I, on behalf of the Management of The Independent Newspaper respectfully urge you to reconsider your decision to close the newspaper and render several of its employees jobless, in addition to the denial of another vital source of information to the readers of the esteem paper,” he added.
Lawyer Camara ended his letter by telling the IGP that it would be in the interest of democracy, good governance and the positive image of the country that the Independent Newspaper is allowed to open and continue operation, albeit parameters of the law.
The Independent Newspaper was bonded by the late Alhagie Dodou Kah. Kah had to use his Fajara M Section home to bond the paper.
It was in fulfillment of Decree 70 and 71, which requires Gambian publishers to provide a landed property as a bond. Such property must worth one hundred thousand dalasis at the time.
Alagi Yorro Jallow, the former Independent Co Proprietor and Managing Editor, secured the bond through the late Alhagie Dodou Kah. Kah died in 2004.
A word came from Banjul that the bond for the Independent had been allegedly withdrawn by the owner of the house, per communications in our possession. CPJ was communicating with the Independent lawyer, through Madi Ceesay. it was allegedly claimed that both Baba Galleh Jallow and Alagi Yorro Jallow were in the picture.
Though Independent Proprietor Alagi Yorro Jallow tells Freedom Newspaper that he was not aware of the purported withdrawal of his paper’s bonding. Jallow says the man, who bonded his paper Alhagie Dodou Jah, died in 2004 and the Independent was closed in 2006.
Jallow adds that if there was any withdrawal of his paper’s bonding, he was going to be aware of it; hence he rejected such claims.
” I posted the bond, and I should be the bona-fide person, to withdraw the bond, if there should be any withdrawal,” Jallow remarked.
Jallow also told Freedom Newspaper that Madi Ceesay never disclosed to him that he had received $17,000 funding from OSI for the reopening of the Independent, through the purchase of new property for bonding of the Independent.
Madi Ceesay is the UDP member of Parliament for Serre-Kunda West. He testified before Gambia’s TRRC on Wednesday. Ceesay never disclosed the $17,000 funding he received from OSI. Ceesay’s nondisclosure for such funding worries his colleague Alagi Yorro Jallow. Jallow said the TRRC is missing an important piece of information as far as efforts to have the Independent reopened was concerned.
Both Ceesay and Lawyer Camara could not be reached for comment.