The Point (the Gambia)
|Founder(s)||Deyda Hydara, Pap Saine, Babucarr Gaye|
|Editor-in-chief||Deyda Hydara (1991-2004), Pap Saine (1991-present)|
|Political alignment||opposition to Yahya Jammeh|
|Headquarters||Bakau, the Gambia|
On 16 December 1991, The Point was founded by Pap Saine, Deyda Hydara, and Babucarr Gaye; Hydara and Saine had been friends since childhood. Gaye resigned four months later, and Hydara and Saine ran the paper together for the next decade. Saine also worked as a Reuters correspondent for West Africa.
On 14 December 2004, the Gambia passed two new media laws. One, the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2004, allowed prison terms for defamation and sedition; the other, the Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004, required newspaper owners to purchase expensive operating licenses, registering their homes as security. Hydara announced his intent to challenge these laws, but on 16 December, was assassinated by an unknown gunman while driving home from work in Banjul. Hydara's murder was never solved.
On 2 February 2009, Saine and Point reporter Modou Sanyang were arrested by Gambian police for suspicion of "publishing and spreading false information". Sanyang was released with a warning, but Saine was formally charged. According the Media Foundation of West Africa, the arrests had been prompted by a Point story titled "Arrested Gambian Diplomat Sent to Mile 2", in which the paper reported that Lamini Sabi Sanyang, an arrested official from Gambia's US Embassy, had been transferred to Mile 2 Prison; Saine had been detained for refusing to reveal his source. One week later, following another report on Gambia's US Embassy, Saine was arrested again, interrogated at length, and given a second charge of "publishing and spreading false information".
On 24 February, authorities also accused Saine of being Senegalese and having obtained a Gambian birth certificate through "false statements". He faced separate trials for each set of charges, both on 12 March in Banjul. Reporters Without Borders described the investigation of Saine as "hounding" and called on Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, to intervene.
On 9 April, the charges of "publishing and spreading false information" were formally dropped.
Hydara murder controversy and defamation trial
In November 2008, the International Press Institute began a "Justice Denied" campaign pressing for investigations into violence against journalists in the Gambia, particularly the still-unsolved murder of Deyda Haydara. At a June 2009 press conference, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh disparaged questions about the Hydara investigation, saying "And up to now one of these stupid Web sites carries 'Who Killed Deyda Hydara'? Let them go and ask Deyda Hydara who killed him." The Gambia Press Union then published a statement criticizing the lack of press freedom in Gambia, the stalled progress of the investigation, and the president's remarks, which the union called "inappropriate". The statement ran in The Point and a weekly newspaper, Foroyaa, on 11 June.
The Gambian government responded by arresting six journalists: Pap Saine, News Editor Ebrima Sawaneh, and reporters Sarata Jabbi-Dibba and Pa Modou Faal of The Point; and editor Sam Saar and reporters Emil Touray of Foroyaa. The six were charged with sedition and criminal defamation of the president. Jabbi-Dibba (the only woman) was held in Mile 2 prison, while Saine, Sawaneh, Faal, Saar, and Touray were held in Old Jeshwang prison. On 8 August, Jabbi-Dibba's seven-month-old baby was taken away.
Numerous human rights NGOs protested the arrests and called the charges against the journalists to be dropped. Amnesty International designated the six as prisoners of conscience and demanded their immediate release. The Committee to Protect Journalists also campaigned for Saine's release, as did the World Organization Against Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights, International PEN, the PEN American Center, and Front Line Defenders. Jammeh continued to denounce the journalists, however, making a state television appearance to say "So they think they can hide behind so-called press freedom and violate the law and get away with it? They got it wrong this time ... We are going to prosecute them to the letter."
On 7 August 2009, the six were convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Mile 2 Prison, as well as a fine of 250,000 dalasi (£5,780) apiece. However, Jammeh pardoned them in September, following a campaign of "domestic and international pressure". The pardons were issued to coincide with Ramadan.
Awards and recognition
Hydara was posthumously awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2005, and the Hero of African Journalism Award of The African Editors’ Forum in 2010, sharing the latter with disappeared journalist Ebrima Manneh.
In 2006, Saine was awarded the Johann Philipp Palm Award for his work with the paper. The award is named for a bookseller executed by Napoleon, and recognizes individuals who are "of outstanding prominence in the promotion of freedom of opinion and the press".
In 2010, Saine was named a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute. He is the third West African to have won the title, following Kenneth Best (Liberia) and Freedom Neruda (Côte d'Ivoire). Saine described the award as a morale-booster and "an inspiration for journalists who are fighting for freedom of the press and the interests of justice, democracy and human rights not only in the Gambia but in all of Africa".
- Valentin Ladstaetter and Laura Pannasch (21 September 2010). "Interview with IPI World Press Freedom Hero Pap Saine". International Press Institute. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "About the Point Newspaper". The Point. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Pap Saine: World Press Freedom Hero". International Press Institute. 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
- "Deyda Hydara". International Press Institute. 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Commonwealth secretary general urged to help "save The Point"". UNHCR. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- ""The Point" editor arrested on charges of "spreading false information"". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Day of the Imprisoned Writer". PEN American Center. 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Adjournment of trials facing editor of the daily The Point". Reporters Without Borders. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Reporters Without Borders Posts Statement that Led to Two-Year Jail Terms for Six Journalists". Reporters Without Borders. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Attacks on the Press 2009: Gambia". Committee to Protect Journalists. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Gambia: Six Journalists Condemned to Two Years in Mile 2 Prison". Amnesty International. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
- "The Gambia: Release of six trade union leaders and journalists". World Organization Against Torture. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "GMB 001 / 0609 / OBS 088.1 Sentencing / Arbitrary detention". International Federation for Human Rights. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Gambia: Six journalists jailed for criticising President". International PEN. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "PEN Appeal: Six Jouranlists [sic] in the Gambia". PEN American Center. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.[dead link]
- "The Gambia: Arrest of seven journalists for fighting impunity and expressing press freedom concerns". Front Line Defenders. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- Chris Tryhorn (7 August 2009). "Six journalists jailed in Gambia". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Saudi Writer, Gambian Journalist Win Freedom to Write Awards". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Deyda Hydara, Chief Manneh get ‘Hero of African Journalism Award’". Jollof News. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Laureates". The Palm Foundation. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "The Johann-Philipp-Palm-Award for Freedom of Speech and the Press". The Palm Foundation. Retrieved 3 February 2012.