If you’re on social media, especially Facebook, you would have been privy to—or even taken part—in crucifying The Standard newspaper yesterday for a statement emanating from the police regarding a potential attestation fraud case.
We published that particular story containing unchecked facts which turned out misleading. It wasn’t the first time we committed an error and it certainly will not be the last. Making errors is human. Even the police make it all the time. But we will leave that for another day.
Let’s face it, we are not everyone’s cup of tea in newspaper journalism in The Gambia. No one needs to tell us that; we know it ourselves. We see the reactions to our stories and the wild accusations against us. Almost every political party or supporter of a political party has a preconceived idea that we support the other. But that’s good because once people cannot agree on where exactly your support lies, means your support lies nowhere.
However, the police statement—which went viral by the way and gave our critics a field day—wasn’t necessarily meant to clarify a publication that happened a week ago. It was meant to create a narrative and to drag the paper’s name through the mud. Yes, we have read between the lines and connected the dots.
The statement said, in part: “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.”
Even for our critics, this is too harsh. We, at The Standard, have no reason whatsoever to soil the reputation of the police, much more doing it desperately. It makes no sense at all.
The police continued: “Any journalist that worth his or her salt should know such basic principles in fair and objective reporting: get your facts right before going to the newsroom.”
For the record, the police cannot tell us anything about fair and objective reporting. That is our job. We cannot tell the police how to prevent and detect crime or maintain public order. That’s exactly the same way they cannot tell us how to report fairly and objectively. It is hypocritical for the police, especially the PRO to make it appear as if we don’t get our facts right before publishing. He knows. The police know. The PRO’s telephone number is the busiest. We call him almost on a daily basis about crimes and updates. In fact, sometimes we inform him about these crimes just by calling him for confirmation, thinking he had already known.
The statement said further: “The Inspector General’s Office wishes to remind all media practitioners to observe ethical principles and codes of conduct in the execution of their duties and desist from misleading the public with information about imaginary crimes calculated only to cause fear and panic within society.”
Really? Calculated only to cause fear and panic? Why would anyone write that? We thought we had a good relationship with the police. Clearly we were wrong.