By: Yankuba Jallow
Sarata Jabbie, a former journalist of The Point Newspaper has revealed that she was remanded with her 7-month old baby for 3 days and about 4 hours subsequently at the Remand Wing of Mile II in Banjul.
This came when they were denied bail and later incarcerated in the trial of 7 journalists which later became 7 – journalists’ case before the High Court in 2009.
The arrest of the journalists was in connection to a press release that the executive of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) issued for publication condemning former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s mocking statement on the death of veteran journalist, Deyda Hydara.
Testifying before the Truth Commission (TRRC) yesterday via Skype, Jabbie said she felt so devastated and the situation was not conducive for her son and herself, adding that she could not sleep at night as she always kept fanning the baby.
“It was very bad. The atmosphere of the Remand Wing was terrible because the size of the building was very small for a number of people that were there,” she explained.
Jabbie, currently residing in Birmingham, United Kingdom (UK), said the cells at Mile II were so crowded with about 10 people in each. She was at the female side of the Remand Wing according to her.
In 2008, Jabbie became the first vice president of the GPU. She revealed that she was never harassed or tortured directly but she heard stories of colleagues who were attacked, arrested, tortured and detained, citing her managing editor, Deyda Hydara, who had been arrested multiple times. Other names he cited were Madi Ceesay, Alagie Yoro Jallow, Musa Saidykhan, and Chief Ebrima Manneh among other media personnel.
Jabbie said Deyda’s body was wrapped with a white cloth and there was stained of blood on his head, chest, and tommy at the mortuary in Banjul. She said Deyda’s death had a negative impact on both herself and colleagues.
The former columnist of The Point Newspaper intimated that the Government was responsible for the murder of Deyda because he was brave and critical to the Yahya Jammeh government.
She said ex-President Jammeh was not happy with the daily question the paper keeps asking on the front page with Deyda’s picture on it. The slogan was “Who killed Deyda Hydara?” She said the ex-President said it in one of his interviews.
Jabbie said Yahya Jammeh told GRTS reporter Kebba Dibba in an interview that: “Every time journalists keep asking who killed Deyda. If they want to know who killed Deyda, let them go to Deyda’s graveyard and ask him who killed him.”
She said Jammeh’s “inappropriate” comment prompted an executive meeting by the GPU to issue a press release, authored by the then President of the Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh that was agreed upon by the executive members of the union. This was in 2008.
She said the press release condemned President Yahya Jammeh’s remark on Deyda which was sent and published by Foroyaa and The Point newspaper. This led to the arrest of 7 journalists including herself.
The other 6 journalists were Ebrima Sawaneh of The Point newspaper; Emil Touray, secretary-general of GPU; Pap Sane of The Point newspaper; Sam Sarr of Foroyaa; Pa Modou Faal of The Point and Abubacarr Saidykhan of Foroyaa.
She said she went to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters for questioning around 3 pm.
Jabbie said the NIA official tried to persuade them to write apology letters to the president but they all refused. She was later granted bail couple of hours later and reported to the NIA during the day time for three days. According to her, apart from Sam Sarr and Emil Touray who refused, all of them wrote statements.
Thereafter, she said they were taken to court and charged with sedition and defamation at the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court and later to Banjul High Court.
The trial lasted less than two months and on 6 August they were convicted to 2 years imprisonment plus a fine. She said they spent 27 days in prison and were released on their 28th day through a presidential pardon.
Born in Basse on July 26, 1983, Jabbi said immediately she finished schooling at Muslim Senior Secondary School in 2002, she joined The Point newspaper without training of the profession out of curiosity.
She said her 7-month son, Muhammed who she was detained with at Mile II in 2009 now goes to school in England, United Kingdom.