By Yankuba Jallow
The Managing Director of the Observer Company has responded to allegations levied in a petition by more than 60 members of his company’s staff.
He denied all the allegations describing them as baseless and call on the staff to table it before him for them to discuss the issues they raised. He described the letter as a surprise for him because, he said, he has installed a normal procedure in the Company which is to table issues and discuss them. He added that during the discussion, the majority’s decision is always taken and acted upon. He also said he is the first manager in the history of the Company who has introduced the “open door system.” He said the previous manager’s payment plans were not realistic and this made the Company a defaulter.
He denied the allegation of nonpayment of salaries for two months saying it was only June that they owe staff and July has not yet ended. He said the lowest salaried workers in the Company are the cleaners and drivers who receive five thousand dalasi every month.
On the staff, he said there are some staff who do not write a single article in the whole month and receive salary. He said there are some good senior staff who have won themselves staff of the month for three consecutive months. He said the differences between the stories published by staff and freelance journalist is huge. He said the freelance out number that of the staff for 142 stories every month.
The Observer media company, is one of the largest Media House in the country and has about nearly a hundred staff including freelance journalist, Marketing and Security Agents as well as those working at printing press. The Company like many other news media, produce publications on a daily basis, except during weekends. The Company has over a month been confronted with issues of tax evasion which led to its closure by the Gambia Revenue Authority. The Company has been operating for over two decades having a change of hand of Management on several occasions especially the past half decade.
The workers wrote to their Managing Director and Editor in Chief to resign with immediate effect because they lost confidence in their ability to lead the Company to a higher level. They said in order for them to transform the paper to a higher level, they need a leadership that is independent minded and would not undermine the credibility of the staff, particularly the journalists.
“The non-payment of staff’ salaries for two consecutive months according to them, shows his lack of competence to be at the helm of affairs of the company. They decried that since he took over as the manager of the Company in December, everything has been adrift as a result of his lack of knowledge about journalism and managerial skills.
“We need a new leadership that has the potential to lift us from this grinding stasis situation” they cry out.
They said the sense of direction and thoughts of the editor in chief, are out of touch with the staff of the Editorial Department and therefore, they cannot work with such an editor; that the decisions he took is against the will of the majority of the staff, is gratuitous; that he took the unilateral decision to slant and jettison the lead story of the Friday Edition, which caused unending furor among the staff members.
“We are calling on government through the Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure and the Gambia Press Union, to intervene and save us from this crisis” they said. They however said, such intervention should give due regard to the editorial independence of the paper.
Mariatou Ngom, the deputy editor in chief of the Observer Company said the current management is not in line with the editorial policy of the Newspaper adding that the shutting down of the company recently, is not the fault of staff.
She said every month, all deductions from staff salaries is shown on their pay slips but that such deductions were not deposited. She questioned how money can be deducted from their monthly salaries is not deposited with the right authorities when it is reflected on their pay slips.
She said those days are gone when the Observer editorial team were called to receive directives from people outside. She said Observer was named among former president Jammeh’s assets in press conference at AG Chambers and the news article that spoke about it was cancelled by management, inserting a headline that was different from the original story. She said the headline that was used was ‘Observer Company Named Part of Jammeh’s Asset’ and the published story was carrying a headline ‘Daily Observer will continue to operate in the Public Interest- AG Tambedou’.