Over the weekend a Gambian blogger, Sidi Sanneh, “broke” the news that Zineb Jammeh, the wife of The Gambia’s former president was seen having dinner with Mr Amadou Samba, a former associate of the former Gambian president, and Samuel Sarr, a Gambian-Senegalese who served as Energy minister under former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade. Not yet done, Sidi Sanneh who once served as foreign and trade minister for Jammeh before he was summarily fired, doubled down and “broke” another story stating Senegalese authorities arrested the two gentlemen.
The news went viral and was reproduced by Gambian and Senegalese online news sites and reproduced by quotidian newspapers in Senegal and The Gambia including this very paper. After the fireball furore that ensued over the publication of the article, Gambian newspapers notably The Standard and The Point as well as Ebrima Sankareh’s online The Gambia Echo carried out diligent investigative reporting on the matter. When contacted, both Messrs Samba and Sarr denied the story and said they neither had a meeting or dinner with Lady Zineb nor were they arrested.
Intelligence sources in Dakar confirmed to all the media outlets that Zineb was never in Dakar and in fact had not stepped foot in Senegal for the past two years and that Mr Samba and Mr Sarr were not of interest to them over the apparent fake report. All facts attest to one thing: Sidi Sanneh “broke” a false news and went on to compound a false news with another false news, unfazed.
As journalists, reporters and bloggers, we all make “mistakes” in our work. No one is perfect and gets it right all of the time, every day. In the language of the old journalists, “the devil’s error is regretted”. But journalism is based on set rules and ethics and one of this is the cardinal principle of the prompt right to reply. Mistakes must be admitted, promptly rectified and published with an apology if warranted, in a prominent position, in the medium which made the initial report.
This was a story as big as it could get. But Sidi Sanneh and his surrogates are refusing to carom down from their high iron seats when all the evidences point out that what he wrote and distributed was false and fake. Period. In fact, if you factor in the historical evidence, one could safely say Mr Sanneh did not make a “mistake”. It was a deliberate attempt to falsely attack Mr Samba! He had done it once, twice in the past. It was the same Sidi Sanneh who wrote another “breaking news” stating that embattled President Jammeh demanded to see Amadou Samba before he would leave office and go into exile. That fake news went viral. But it was utterly false, just as this one.
Sidi Sanneh is an elderly respectable member of our society who raised up a good family and served his country and the wider African continent with distinction. Openly lying by attacking people unjustly should be beneath him. He should do the honourable thing and apologise to Messrs Samba and Sarr and his many young and not-so-young followers on the social media. He should be setting good examples.
The Barrow government has seen the wisdom to include him in the national think tank. That is where he needs to redirect his energies and focus, instead of vainly trying to generate Google traffic to his blog and compete with thousands of these young Gambian ‘netizens’ in “breaking” news, real or false. It seems he does not care! It is really unedifying for someone like Sidi Sanneh to lash out at the entire Gambian media last evening by screaming that the state of Gambian journalism is ‘PATHETIC’ when pressed by social commentators to reveal his evidences! Gambian journalism is more robust today than at anytime in the history of this republic! So, Mr Sanneh, put up or shut up!