Alagi Yorro Jallow

One of Gambia’s most persecuted journalists during the previous APRC regime of President Yahya Jammeh is to be honored today for his contributions to the development of Gambian media.

Alagi Yorro Jallow, former managing editor and founder of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005 and author of “Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia”, used his newspaper to give a voice to Gambians and to expose what the secretive Jammeh regime wanted to keep away from the eyes and ears of the public.

He was among a group of private newspaper proprietors who successfully campaigned to disband a government-controlled media commission with extensive powers to punish journalists.

However, his work as a journalist and human rights advocate has not been without opposition. He was arbitrarily arrested and detained several times and in April 2004, a group of armed men entered the office of The Independent in the early morning and set it ablaze with the staff still inside.

Several staff were wounded, and the office and printing equipment owned by the paper was destroyed causing huge economic loss.

The following year, his newspaper was arbitrarily shutdown by the government for its independent reporting.

A winner of the 2005 International Press Freedom Award, Mr. Jallow has been living in the United States since December 2004 when he received several death threats after the murder of fellow Gambian journalist Deyda Hydara.

Despite being thousands of miles away, the former vice chairman of the GPU continues to play a key role in the development of journalism in the country such as helping to raise funds for the maintenance of the union’s secretariat including payment of rent, telephone, electricity and Internet bills. In 2005, he helped to facilitate the purchase of a printing press for GPU through a US Government grant.

In 2010, he played a crucial role in helping to secure a grant from the US State Department for the funding of a 20-month program with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the Gambia Press Union and the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE) to equip media workers in the Gambia with human and material resources that enabled them to respond with greater effectiveness to repressive and punitive media laws.

The Independent’s press was set on fire by Gambian Security agents

The program among other things helped to enhance the skills of journalists and editors, increase communication among all Gambian media professionals, strengthen the associations that represent them and work to protect their rights.

Last year, Mr. Jallow donated an assortment of (Journalism, Communication and History) books to the Gambia Press Union School of Journalism.

In recognition for his active contributions to the development of the Gambia Press Union and the journalism fraternity in general, Mr. Jallow, a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and a 2007 Nieman fellow, will be given the prestigious GPU’s President Award at the Gambia’s Djembe Beach Resort.

Reacting to the award, Mr. Jallow said he is pleased, honored to accept the prestigious award and is and humbled to join past recipients whom he has long admired and respected.

“A very special thanks to the Gambia Press Union executive for selecting me. And an enormous salute to all this year’s nominees each of whom have made incredible contributions towards freedom of speech, or of the press in the Gambia,” he said.

Mr Jallow added: “It’s a great honor for me to be one of the recipients of the 2018 GPU President’s Award for my “services to the Gambia Press Union and the Media Fraternity”. It’s indeed a privilege to be among the Gambian journalist to be awarded this prestigious GPU Honorary Award in the year 2018.

“Awards, no doubt, are always recognition of your endeavors and professional commitments; a source of encouragement which boosts your energy levels, and a drive that enkindles new fire inside you to steer into new challenges.

“I am grateful to Allah Almighty, my family, friends and the organizations I worked with, for their utmost support in my career. This award is also an opportunity to raise my voice against press freedom that journalists in the Gambia are subjected to for decades. I expect this award will promote the true meaning of courage and Ethical Journalism in the Gambia. The Courage which adventurism is never and the Ethics that is widely in question now days in the media fraternity.

“My work for free speech has made me a better journalist – and a more responsible citizen of the world. These awards come at a moment when journalism has become more independent and responsible. However, this success is countered by huge challenges. I accept this award on behalf of thousands of journalists who risk their lives for free speech and justice.

“Consider, what the world would be like without good journalism? The inherent power of the media has given corrupt and tyrannical governments sleepless nights. We have immense power, ladies and gentlemen, to expose evil and cause positive change.

“The question that I often ask myself is: What can I do to change things? I have the answer to my own question. I can tell the truth, no matter the consequences. Doing this powerful job comes with a high price. We journalists are threatened, harassed, and imprisoned. Jails doors are open— waiting for anyone who dares to tell the truth. For many – including myself – the fight has not yet broken our backs. But sadly, others have lost the battle, often paying the highest price with their lives.

“Thank you again, the Gambia Press Union. You are generous supporters of hard-working and visionary journalism. Your work with journalists helps improve the lives of defenseless people all over the country.”