On our Friday, 11th February edition, we published an article in which we quoted Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment minister Seedy Keïta as telling probing parliamentarians that contrary to what many believe, in the current circumstances, Gambian importers opting to bring their goods through the port of Dakar represents no revenue losses to the Gambian exchequer and that in fact it is “a bonus” to the economy.
The article went viral and generated a huge blowback on the social media and elsewhere as statements like these usually do. Economist commentators like our usual suspects flailed Minister Keïta over the hot coals and accused him and the government of ineptitude, surrendering our sovereignty to Senegal and all kinds of things.
Appearing on West Coast Radio’s flagship morning programme, Coffee Time With Peter Gomez yesterday, Minister Keïta basically said we misquoted him and took his comments out of context. This warranted The Standard editor Lamin Cham to call and set the record straight. There was nothing taking out of context and the quotations attributed to him including “a bonus” to the Gambian economy were words he spoke as contained in an audio file of his statement at parliament which Mr Cham even sent to the programme presenter Peter Gomez.
This is not the first or the last time that a minister or public official will say, after coming under criticism, that he was misquoted, misrepresented or his words “taken out of context” by a reporter. And for us at The Standard, we do not regard it as anything personal. If for anything, we have a lot of respect for Minister Keïta for his candour when speaking at parliament. And not even his critics would deny that the man knows his onions when it comes to his briefs as a minister.
We at The Standard sometimes make mistakes in our work. We don’t want to be a run-of-the-mill dumbed down newspaper that just regurgitates press releases or avoid controversies at any cost. And knowing the quotidian nature and the pressures of deadlines in newsrooms, some of these mistakes will slip through and make it onto the pages the following day. But we are resolved to keep these errors to the basic minimum. And where we make mistakes, we will not hesitate to “suck it up”, admit our error and publicly apologise.
In fact, in our tomorrow’s edition, we are running a public apology to Honourable Hamat Bah, the minister of tourism and culture, who rightly feels aggrieved by certain unproven statements in an article we published in our paper. He demanded an apology from the reporter and the publisher. We will not shirk from our ethical responsibility to do so and wherever our work is found to be demonstrably substandard and may have impugned the character of any person, private or public, high or low.