Monday, April 28, 2014

Shame on you, Daily Observer - up-dated

It has been exactly one week and one day when the Works and Infrastructure Minister was apparently involved in a car accident, which, as far as it can be pieced together, occured during Yaya Jammeh's 21-day tour of the provinces.

In any decent government, the accident should have been reported in the very same Daily Observer, the official mouthpiece of the regime, that is this morning, eight days after the accident, displaying a banner headline announcing the discharge from a Madrid hospital of the Minister.

The news blackout, which was deliberate, caused people in The Gambia calling us to find out about happenings in their own country.  In fact, we got to know about the accident on Monday in America, a whole day before the rest of Gambia got the news.

Meanwhile, Jammeh was busy politicking while his Infrastructure Minister was in a Madrid hospital.  We have said last week, the most appropriate and humane thing to have done was to suspend his tour.

To have just stopped at the announcement would not have been that bad as it is beginning to look when the paper decided to start looking for culprits who being responsible to what the Daily Observer regards as "negative comments whirling in town in the past two days about the health of Minister Balla Jahumpa."

This type of journalism by the official news organ is both irresponsible and dangerous.  The regime is equally culpable in keeping Gambians in the dark as Yaya Jammeh and his group of incompetent followers have been doing for 20 years.  It is a regime that thrives on deceit, misinformation and disinformation.

If the Daily Observer is now so concerned about "negative whirling in town", why didn't the paper report on the accident and condition of the Minister.  They had eight days to do it, but they didn't because they've been asked by Yaya Jammeh not to say a damn thing.  After all, the last we checked, both Yaya Jammeh and the Minister are public officers drinking from the public trough filled by Gambian tax payers.

And as long as both are under our employ, they will enjoy less privacy than your ordinary Pateh or Demba.
Most importantly, both Yaya Jammeh and the Minister are accountable to us, the people.

It was because of the irresponsible handling of this incident, as is the case with numerous other incidences that is of the public's concern, that this blog got into the act in the first instance.  We do not do straight news. We do analysis of the news by trying to explain to ordinary Gambians, especially those with little knowledge of how "the government" functions (or more appropriately, supposed to function), especially in the areas of macro-economic management.

If the regime, through its Ministry of Information, and the Daily Observer did their respective jobs as expected, there would not have been the risk of neither having been exposed to the "negative comments whirling in town for two days."  Because you failed in your fundamental duties of reporting the facts and keeping the population informed of the regime's official activities, you were partly responsible for the ensuing speculative reporting we saw in the past eight days.

All said, this editorial is in no way excusing sloppy reporting or absolving any culprit on the other side of the political divide, especially when the news is sensitive, personal and as tragic as that involving life and death.

We are certainly not absolving ourselves.  We have had our share of pie-in-the-face moments.  That said, we are not journalists but bloggers, and there's a difference.  In spite of the difference, we are are all bound by simple journalistic ethics because our interpretation of the news is, and must be based on facts.

If we are not sure of our "facts", we should not put them in print, and when we do, only to realize that what we thought were facts, were not facts, the decent thing to do is retract, apologize and move on.  Doubling down, when we've killed someone who's busy fighting for his or her life or is alive and kicking somewhere in Madrid is the wrong strategy for any journalist to take.

We can afford to apply light humor only because we now know that "Balla J" is alive and well and drinking Spanish coffee somewhere in Madrid.  All's well that ends well.

Up-dated  April 28.14  12:54