|Jim Boumelha is president of the International Federation of Journalists|
From the President
Ndey Tapha Sosseh President Gambian Press Union 24th June 2011
It gives me great pleasure to be able to congratulate you on your triennial congress today on behalf of the IFJ and its unions worldwide. This should be indeed a tremendous commemoration of journalism but also a wonderful tribute to what your union and its leadership have achieved.
The IFJ and its affiliates are indeed very proud of your resilience and determination to confront many of the tough challenges you have been facing in the last few years. You had to face up to colleagues being harassed, beaten up, kidnapped and imprisoned. At times you had to defend the very existence of your union. Most of the time, you had to learn to navigate through choppy political waters, lobby and stand up for the interest of your members. In the end, despite scary moments, you came out of it with flying colours.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that, over the years, you have acted as one of the most combative of our unions, always putting first the interests of journalists and journalism. This is not just a personal judgment but a view shared by many of our unions, who always admired the way you fought for just causes and your confidence and belief in your strength and your solidarity.
I must also congratulate you for your spirited fortitude and tremendous maturity in keeping your unity intact at all cost. This is something so rare today in Africa. Confronting so many obstacles, I am fully aware that keeping united can be crucial in building the GPU.
The whole global family of journalists has been fully aware of and given its support to your struggle. We are all full of admiration for the grit and tenacity of your leadership during the darkest hours in the face of brutal oppression and jail conditions, and the courage and drive of your president in succeeding in putting the ordeal of Gambian journalists as a top priority for our unions, the human rights community worldwide and even governments.
This is a historical record that does great credit to Ndey and to your union. I never had any doubt that your union has always been at the centre of the fight for social justice and journalists’ rights in Gambia. You have shown an indomitable fighting trade union spirit, which is a real model for many of our unions.
Finally I am well aware that on this day you will be assessing your journey with all its strength and weaknesses and I hope you will also be full of optimism and sense of achievement. I wish I could be with you for this historic celebration. My message to you is to continue the fight. These are difficult times for all of us, when the need for aware, independent and ethical journalism is greater than it has ever been. I am confident that Gambian journalists are in good hands as along as the GPU continues to thrive and to develop.
JIM BOUMELHA President International Federation of Journalists
- Read by Louise Thomasi, IFJ Africa Office at the Gambia Press Union Triennial Congress June 24-26, 2011, on behalf of IFJ