A Gambian reporter intern, who was recently fired from The Gambian Talents Promotion network, has been hired as an Assistant Manager at the leading Tallinding based King FM radio station. Ms. Fatima’s Balajo’s hiring, followed her appearance on Freedom Radio Gambia’s Civic Education program show on Thursday, where she explained the circumstances that led to her departure from Pa Ousman Joof’s Gambian Talents Promotion company.
Ms. Balajo 27, said she was absorbed at The Gambian Talents as an intern and was never allocated transportation allowance, no water to drink and food to eat work, and there was no basic journalistic equipment provided to her to do her job. She said interns at Gambian Talents worked for long hours without been paid or compensated and were required to clean the office, including the toilets. She said interns were also substituted as watchmen, as they are scheduled to work overnight to protect the office.
She also said interns were also required to buy a reporter’s card from the company. The cards were sold to them for D500 dalasis. She was asked to return the reporter’s card she bought from the network after her firing.
Ms. Balajo’s sad and shocking story had touched Freedom Radio’s wider listeners around the globe. Some listeners had even offered to support her monetarily. One of them live in Germany. He said he was going to call Ms. Balajo so that they could make arraignments for him to send her some money. The listener said he was going to give her D3,000 dalasi monthly allowance for three months. He said he was going to send her the money after the radio show. The caller was furnished with Ms. Balajo’s cell phone number.
Saddened by Ms. Balajo’s story, Alhagie Secka, the proprietor of the King FM radio, phoned the live Freedom radio show and offered a job to Ms. Balajo. Secka, a resident of New York, said he was going to hire Ms. Balajo as an Assistant Manager. He also said he has plans to work with Ms. Balajo on an Internet online television he wants to set up in The Gambia.
“I spoke to her after your radio show. I have hired her as an Assistant Manager. We need to lift our people; we should support and encourage them. I was touched by her story. I was shocked when I heard saying that she has lost her both parents, mum, and dad. She is a young girl. We should support and encourage our young people,” Secka told me in a phone conversation.
Ms. Balajo is going to be working under the King FM Manager Gibril Jallow. Jallow is a seasoned radio manager.
“She is going to start work tomorrow. She has been hired with an attractive salary. She has a job. My goal is to empower Gambian youths. King FM is here for all Gambians. This is my way of giving back to my country. At King FM, she shouldn’t be worried about editorial interference. My workers can attest to the fact that I do not interfere with their work. They are working freely without any pressure or interference,” Secka added.
Ms. Balajo in response thanked Mr. Secka for the kind job offer accorded to her. She also thanked the Freedom Radio proprietor Pa Nderry M’Bai for giving her the opportunity to talk about the media censorship that she suffered at The Gambian Talents Promotion. She said she was fired by The Gambian Talents because of her coverage on the Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe. She alleged that Pa Ousman Joof wasn’t happy about her coverage and he (Joof) retaliated by firing her.
“I am exceedingly happy. Thank you, Mr. Secka, for availing me with such an opportunity. I really appreciate it. My thanks to Pa Nderry M’Bai, Gambia’s last standing independent, truthful, and principled journalist. When I was in tears, I decided to call Pa Nderry. He is the only one reporting The Gambian story, accurately, truthfully, and objectively, without fear or favor. Everyone here listens to him. Thank you, Pa Nderry Mbai for giving me the opportunity to expose the sellout Gambian Talents. The Gambian Talents had thrown me under the bus because of the money that Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe has been giving them. That medium is killing independent journalism. They are also using their interns to get donations from others. We haven’t seen the money that Pa Ousman Joof has been receiving from his donors in the name of supporting the interns. They have been spreading lies against me, what they said about me, is false and unfounded,” said Ms. Balajo.
Ms. Balajo laments that even though none of the interns are being paid, her bossy boss Pa Ousman Joof, has been making them to work for long hours.
“We work for long hours, no water or food to eat at work, our phones are kept a locker, we are also denied access to the office’s Internet, they wouldn’t allow us to use their electricity to charge our mobile phones. Interns are also required to do cleaning work. Interns also work as overnight watchmen,” she alleged.
Ms. Balajo alleged that Mr. Joof has reduced himself as a “beggar journalist.”
“I do not consider him as a journalist. He is using his medium to beg for money. He is a griot journalist. He protects the people, who gives him money. The Mayor of Banjul is one of those giving him money. He is a fake journalist. I am also disappointed with Fatou Samba. She is a false pretender. The impression that she exhibits is fake. I came to realize this when they conspired to have me fired. She was passing a lot of false information about me to Mr. Joof. Mr. Joof told me during our meeting that Fatou Samba has been reporting to him about me,” she said.
Pa Ousman Joof was contacted for comment, but he is yet to respond to our journalistic query. We will keep you posted once we hear from him.
In another development, below is a reaction we received from Pa Ousman Joof the proprietor of The Gambian Talents Promotion.
Pa Nderry, I will really like to be focus on the positive things I am doing for my community both in The Gambia and the US and I hope this will be the last time I make any further comment on this issue.
In a nutshell, there’s no money to be made from this internship. Period. There’s no single sponsor for the program despite the fact that I knocked and continue to knock on all doors. This is a project I am very passionate about because it is providing skills training and employment opportunities for several young people and I am calling on all Gambians and friends of The Gambia and the entire humanity to support it. We are touching the lives of the young people of The Gambia in a very positive way. That office is run 100% by youths under 30 and i guide them to make all the decisions.
I remind you again that our beneficiaries are school dropouts, “backway” returnees, high school graduates who don’t have the basic requirements to pursue higher education or students of the university of The Gambia and other tertiary institution who don’t have the practical skills or experience in any of the fields we are offering. I am proud to tell you that we have changed a lot of lives and will continue to do so by the grace of God with or without support but we will appreciate any genuine support from anyone.
And yes, we do have a code of conduct and policy document that is signed by all our staff and interns on their day of orientation. This policy is based on best practices followed by all serious institutions and I can tell you that anybody who passes through this office in Gambia and follows our standards, you can work anywhere in the world. All interns must sign an internship agreement, a presenter and blogger agreement (for journalists only), a model release form, a policy and procedures document and their time table. Both the contract and the policy document have some of these clauses that you referenced and all interns including Balajo signed them. You can ask her to provide you with a copy of all documents she was provided with on the day of her orientation.
For the water part, there’s no obligation on us to provide that to them sir.
GAMBIAN TALENTS PROMOTION-EMPLOYEE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES-