As Managing Editor of Foroyaa Newspaper, I am required by Law and best practice, to facilitate the publication of the truth in good faith, and in the public interest.
It has been brought to my notice, that you have mentioned my name in an article, attributing to me what I have not said or written in any newspaper or media establishment. This is why I deem it necessary to address this letter to you. President Barrow is a Head of State. Section 69 of the Constitution categorically states the following, among others:
“(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against any person while holding or performing the functions of the office of President, in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her, whether in an official or a private capacity.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) applies to an action for a declaration under section 5 (enforcement of the Constitution), and any proceedings under that section against the President or a person performing the functions of that office, shall be brought against him or her by his or her official title or style, and he or she shall appear, and be represented by, the Attorney-General.”
It is therefore evident that any wrangling that the president cannot be taken to Court and forced to divulge the name of a journalist who allegedly asked to be bribed to publish favourable reports, is misplaced. Suffice it to say that the Attorney General would be the competent authority to advise or represent the President where it matters. I have not issued any statement indicating any plan to take the president to Court, to force him to divulge any information. The integrity of your profession requires you to represent a fair view under all circumstances. Justice is about evidence. One must not assert until one can prove. I am sure you cannot provide any single evidence where I had uttered any remark that would warrant you to subject my person to the type of verbal assault that is unexpected of a public servant.
Foroyaa published the following as a reaction to the debate on what the President has said:
“IS THE HONEY MOON BETWEEN BARROW AND THE MEDIA OVER?
“The media houses and media practitioners are making public declaration on comments made by President Barrow, touching on issues of professional impropriety by an undisclosed journalist.
“A distinction should be made between public relation organisations, and media houses. In many countries today, public relation institutions have sprouted, aimed out promoting businesses and personalities. A number of them, do have promotional magazines that are essentially meant for advertisements.
“Media houses and media practitioners whose role it is to disseminate information such as news, are duty bound to be independent and impartial in publishing facts. They are bound by principles. They must publish the truth in good faith, and in the public interest.
“This is why many media houses are calling on the president to indicate which media house or media practitioner has offered to serve as the mouth piece of the State House. If the President states nothing on his return, then the media houses should call on the president to work on repealing the provision which deals with false news, so that any information that cannot be corroborated, will be taken as an opinion and not a fact and should be dismissed in the public media, so that it will not misguide people.”
If you wish to take any issue with me or the paper you may quote from the article on the subject and state your mind. That is what is expected of a professional aiming to clear doubts about a subject matter that is of national interest. Profiling journalists and attributing to all what may stigmatise them, is at best unfair and at worst unprofessional and unbefitting of a man of integrity.
I therefore hope that you will develop the practice of gathering evidence and corroborate them before passing judgment. If you fail to do so, you will be held responsible for miscarriage of justice. Judgment that is not based on evidence, leads to miscarriage of justice. I hope you will check your facts next time, before painting all journalists with one brush.
Samuel O. Sarr