|Ndey Tapha Sosseh|
GTMI HALL, KANIFING 24-26 JUNE 2011
Colleagues and friends of the media, we are once again gathered here at the GTMI Hall to discuss and take stock and reflect on the activities, achievements, successes and failures of the Gambia Press Union, the current leadership. The detailed agenda that had been circulated indicates to you all the seriousness of the deliberations and the need to add valuable input into the various texts proposed to strengthen the Union.
Before going further, I’d once again like to sincerely apologise that I am unable to be amongst you in person to partake in an event which I daresay is the most important, memorable and decisive event since my executive has taken over the mantle of leadership of the GPU.Not only do I acutely feel my absence this weekend, but the fact that we cannot be together to take stock together, for the cause, the path, that we together set out on, three years ago on March 22, 2008.
The theme of this year’s Congress, STRENGTHENING THE GPU: A Detailed analysis of the past, current situation, ACTIONS TO confront future challenges was not chosen by accident but instead is a deep reflection of this executive on mapping out the way forward and to actually put in place a blueprint that enables the incoming executive to act from the onset in a precise, targeted and result-oriented manner, thereby enabling the Union and its various structures to provide, better, more meaningful support to its members, the Gambian media fraternity, in an approach that is needs based.
The efforts of the Executive, secretariat to enable us share thought provoking themes on the way forward notwithstanding, us Gambian journalists, members and non-members of the Union here present, media chiefs and media institutions should take advantage of this first opportunity – a three day forum – geared towards dissecting each and every possibility of taking our Union, the Gambian media fraternity to higher heights.
It is important that we leave here, armed with visionary documents, strategies with input from you that’ll enable the leadership and secretariat of the Union act responsively in providing services for you. You will all agree with me, that since it was formed in 1978, this is the first time that a Union Congress has been preceded by a two day comprehensive reflection of activities, engagements and deliberations on the future of the Union.
This is no accident; it is instead a deliberate attempt, on the part of the executive to allow you all to take stock of the activities, events, achievements and failures of this executive with a view to building a Union that is stronger, more effective and much more responsive to your needs.
Again, looking at the agenda, you will notice that a lot of emphasis has been made on the historical element of the GPU, this in our view, enables you all to not only better appreciate the strides that have been made in the past three years but to also design our future, armed with a better and fuller understanding of the raison d’etre of and the role of the Union.
The focus on the future is an opportune moment for us, as a family to look at our constitution, strategies and modernize them in a responsible, responsive manner.
The past three years has been no easy ride, for this executive, like the last two leaderships before ours, we have had to deal with our mandate, with a lesser number from Congress, nine of us were elected, as at February 2010, four including myself, the president, the two vice presidents and co-opted members have found ourselves unable to return and to serve from the base.
I am pleased to however note that with new technologies and a deep commitment to delivering our mandate, the impact and abilities of the executive to function and supervise the overall direction of the Secretariat has not waned. The high spirit and mood with which we welcomed our election has at all times, even when during the bleakest moment for this leadership –June/September 2009 – during the arrest, detention, trial and imprisonment of three members of our executive, two senior advisors and a member of the Union did we waver in our commitment to serve and to provide leadership to you.
I salute today, Bai Emil Touray, Sarata Jabbi-Dibba, Pa Momodou Faal, Sam Sarr, Pap Saine and Ebrima Sawaneh for their courage, humility and strength of character in the face of adversity. If anything, this executive stood taller and remained more convinced that we were on the right side of history by providing sterling leadership at a time that we could have faltered.
Members, Colleagues, friends, this weekend should also avail us the opportunity to reflect on and find ways to better address the needs of the families of our departed colleagues, our disappeared colleagues. We must also address the issue of the high rate of brain drain within our profession due to mass outward movement of our colleagues who for fear of persecution and attacks to their person for being nothing else but a journalist.
Once again, I call on you all to rise up for a minute of silence in honour of Sports Journalist Lamin A. Darboe, our colleague who lost his life in a ferry accident last November. Deyda Hydara, a symbol of the cause the Union stands for. Our thoughts should also be extended to Chief Ebrima Manneh.
I welcome you all and wish you successful discussions.