The Office of the Inspector General of Police yesterday issued a statement expressing its “utter dismay” with “a false lead story published by The Standard newspaper on Wednesday 2nd June 2021, captioned “Police Arrest 7 Over False Voter’s Card Attestations” written by reporter Mafugi Ceesay.
The statement contended that not only is the story false, but it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and therefore create unnecessary confusion.
“According to the reporter, the seven individuals were arrested by police stationed at Farato on Monday 31st May 2021. This in itself is misleading, and clearly unprofessional as our records of the said police post has none of the above. Thorough verification of our records at the police post at Farato including the station diary and all other relevant documents have nothing to support or substantiate the reporter’s claim.
“Further verification at nearby stations showed no record of such arrest throughout the whole Upper West Coast Police Division. Our daily situation reports across the country also indicated no such arrest since the beginning of the voter registration process.
“Probes into the reporter’s claim that one ASP Lamin Mballow confirmed the story also proved him to be untruthful as there is no such name holding such rank in the entire West Coast Region among our officers.
This desperate attempt to soil The Gambia Police Force does not only manifest gross unprofessionalism but also amounts to false publication under the Criminal Code of the Gambia.”
Reacting to the story, The Standard managing editor, Baba Sheriff Bojang said: “The police brought our attention to their concern about the veracity of the story the day it was published. We summoned the reporter Mr Mafugi Ceesay, who said he stood by his story and that in addition has an audio record of the interview he had with the purported ASP Mballow.
We instructed Mr Ceesay to suspend all editorial assignments and go to police headquarters to clarify the matter with them. We were later informed by the police that he was uncooperative and even ‘rude’ to them and insisted on the impeccability of his article.
In line with our own editorial protocols, we launched our internal investigation which corroborates most of the salient points raised by the police. We summoned Mr Ceesay to several meetings but he refused to admit his error/fabrication.
Consequently, we pulled down the article from the website and on all our social media handles. As an administrative decision, we have with immediate effect withdrawn the services of Mr Mafugi Ceesay as a reporter from The Standard newspaper. We will however help him in anyway he desires to improve his lot as a journalist.
We express our unreserved apology to our readers, the IEC and the police, retract and disassociate ourselves from the article. We set up The Standard and vowed to improve the quality of quotidian newspaper journalism in the country and this article is down south from that noble high aspiration. We subscribe and uphold the cardinal principle in journalism that facts are sacred.
Along the same vein, we believe that the statement by the police was unduly harsh and vindictive. Since they brought the matter to our notice, we have been fully cooperative. We have no desire or intent to engage in a ‘desperate attempt to soil [the image of] The Gambia Police Force’. In fact, we hold the police in esteem and appreciate their sacrifice in maintaining security, law and order in the country. Our recent criticism of them was done in good faith and was merely a general expression of the public’s concern about the magnitude and degree of violent crimes in the country.”