By Omar Bah
The Gambia Press Union has been criticised by a section of the Gambian media for “interfering” in the selection of awardees in this year’s media awards as well as its decision to award the Minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou the Press Hero Award.
Yero Jallow, former co-proprietor of the then Independent Newspaper was among few journalists who openly criticized the union’s decision to award the Justice Minister.
“The optimistic take on this is that perhaps it will make it plain to everyone that the GPU Award Night is best simply ignored,” he added.
Mr Jallow argued that no one has done more for the GPU and independent journalists in recent years than lawyer Hawa Sisay Sabally.
Bokar Bah, also a journalist said the GPU should review its award criteria and bring in judges from strong conventional journalism and academic background.
Ousman Marong, a senior journalist with Mamos online TV said the GPU Award selection process was bias. He singled out the award given to the GPU Vice President Mustapha K.
Darboe as a tragic mistake that undermined the entire process.
“What criteria were used to select our journalists for recognition for an award by the GPU? Creating a criterion is critical in standardising processes that’d ensure impartiality and protection of the credibility of institutions.
Without this we risk compromising the credibility of our institutions and these awards become less valuable than the paper they’re printed on,” he stressed.
Marong said people like Musa Cise should not be part of the GPU awards committee.
Meanwhile, when contacted Agnes Thomasi, a senior journalist with the West Africa Democracy Radio and prominent member of the judges, replied: “One thing I can say is that personally my integrity and moral values do not allow me to let anyone interfere with work that I’m given to do.
Secondly there has never been an instance where GPU interfered. As judges all we looked at were the products; the submissions from the journalists; we concentrated on quality.
You can contact the GPU for further information.”
The chairman of the awards committee, Musa Sise said GPU president Sheriff Bojang Jr and secretary general Saikou Jammeh had no influence on the work of the judges because they are independent of both the GPU and the award committee.
“The only thing the GPU got to select is the president’s award which I didn’t even know prior to the award because the GPU board had to sit and discuss that.
The selection of the judges looks at independent people who are not a member or head of any media house in the country and these people are people with impeccable character who must also be well known,” he added.
Reacting to the allegation on-behalf of the GPU, Haddija Jawara who was the coordinator of the awards, said her committee was responsible for nominating and short listing judges.
She added that during the nomination, they considered independence and integrity of the people they nominate.
“As the coordinator of the award committee I only gather the submissions and send them to the judges.
So to say that the GPU has any influence over the award, I think is very unfair to the judges and their work because these are people with impeccable pedigree and really the GPU have not had any say in their work,” she added.
Justice Minister’s award
She said the award given to Ba Tambadou is awarded by the executive of the GPU and it has nothing to do with the award committee.
“For the past few years we have been only giving it to veterans and even Yero Jallow and others who are talking about it have received the award.
The award was given to Ba Tambadou simply because all the media reforms that were achieved in the past years were achieved during his tenure and when someone is helping you it is only correct that you find a way to say thank you,” she said.