By Hassoum Ceesay
The Gambia National
The flag of newspapers foretells their lofty missions. The NYT, for example, says on its masthead: ‘For All the News Fit To Print’. The Gambia has the longest enviable record of free speech in Africa. During the colonial period, especially from 1900 to 1965, at any one time there were at least three weeklies circulating in Bathurst, and numerous pamphlets. Even our colonial oppressors could not silence our brave journalists (E.FSmall, Finden Dailey, James Senegal, Mustapha Colley, E. Hamilton Joiner…).
From 1965 to 1994, more than twelve publications circulated freely in Banjul, carrying diverse opinions, edited by poor, but fearless journalists. Trawling the archives yesterday, I saw some of the newspaper mottos of the First Republic and Colonial Period.
The Gambia Echo was edited for the longest period by Lenrie Peters Snr. Its Motto changed from ‘For King and Country’ in 1934 when it was created to ‘For Queen and Country’ in 1952 when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne.
The Gambia Outlook of E. F. Small was published continuously from 1922 to 1990. M.B Jones took up its editorship in 1958 when Small, the fierce patriot, died. Its Motto: ‘The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance’.
The Nation Newspaper was edited by Dixon Colley from 1964 to 2000. Its motto was: ‘Careful Government Watchdog.’
The Vanguard was edited by Marion Foon from 1958-1960. Its motto: ‘The Peoples’ Popular Newspaper’.
Sana Manneh, the brave Gambian journalist and crusading editor edited the Torch newspaper. Its motto: ‘Forward Ever, Backward Never.’
Pierre Sock edited the African Unity newspaper for various political parties in the 1960s. Its motto was Nkrumahist: ‘One People, One Continent, One Government’.
The Worker was edited lately by Pa Modu Faal, the veteran trade unionist. Its motto: ‘By Hard Work and Brain, The United Brotherhood of Workers’.
Ngaing Thomas, fearless journalist of the 1970s and 1980s, edited The Gambian newspaper. Its motto was: No Justice, No Peace’. The Gambian must not be confused with New Gambian newspaper edited by Ba Trawalleh from 1966-1971.
The oldest paper in Banjul now is Foroyaa; published by a triumvirate of Halifa Sallah, Sam Sarr and Sidia Jatta since 1987. Its motto(‘quote’): Know Yourselves, Know Your Country, And Know The World, Then You Shall Be Architect Of Your Own Destiny’.
Junkunda Daffeh, brilliant Marxist activist and avant-garde journalist edited The Sun in the 1980s. Its motto was curious: ‘Fidelity, Justice’.
R.S Allen edited The Gambia Onward newspaper from 1966-1991. Its motto: ‘For A Better Nation’.
Alhaji Ba Trawalleh, the nationalist politician and teacher turned journalist and edited the PPP’s mouthpiece Gambia Timesfrom 1981. Its motto: ‘To Reach and Persuade the Reading Public of the Party’s Policies’.
K.Y Best edited the Daily Observer from 1992. Its motto was very patriotic: ‘Forward with The Gambia’.
To end, Banjul newspapers have had mission and vision. They poked truth at the towers of power; exposed the foibles of the hoi polloi; and unmasked demagoguery with inimitable firmness. The editors lived modest, and died poor but left an enviable legacy of patriotism and free speech. Long Live The Gambia!