Breaking News:The Big Interview:Jailed Gambian Journalist Lamin Fatty Speaks!!
“I think that at this very moment, one has to know what to write, when to write it, as far as the press is concerned in this country. My Lawyer has just ask me to stop writing for the time being. And obviously,  I have to heed to his advise. Really, what I can tell you is that I’m living in fear. I’m living in fear and my family are not stable. They are very worried.” These were the exact words of Journalist Lamin Fatty a former Senior Reporter with the Defunct Independent Newspaper. Mr. Fatty in an exclusive interview with the Freedom Newspaper, said the current hostile media situation in the Gambia, calls for absolute caution. Fatty who was recently convicted on Libel and sedition charges said he had drop his journalistic pen for now in fear for his life and personal safety. His Lawyer Lamin Camara has advised him to refrain from writing stories in local papers, until his appeal case against the state is exhausted. Fatty is contesting the legality of the Magistrate’s  judgment, which imposed one year prison jail term against him in default of a court fine. In a telephone  interview, Fatty commented about lack of funds to support his family, government’s relationship with the private press, his detention and a host of other issues. Below is the full text of the interview. Please read on..
Freedom Newspaper: How do you feel  when the Gambian press bail you out from going to jail by paying your fine?

Lamin Fatty: Well, I was extremely happy. Extremely happy, for the fact they have saved me from going to jail. That’s very commendable. And I’m thanking them for rescuing me from going jail.

Freedom Newspaper: On the subject of jail, how was jail like at the Mile Two Prison? You spent several months in jail. How would you describe the conditions at the Mile Two Prison?

Lamin Fatty: I was taken to the Prisons reception. I was waiting at the reception for them to pay the fine,  so that I can be released and that was exactly what had transpired. Nothing happened to me. They have not done anything wrong to me.

Freedom Newspaper: No, what I’m saying is that during your three months detention, before you were granted bail by the court, how  was life in Mile Two?

Lamin Fatty: I was not detained at Mile Two. I was detained at the National Intelligence Agency, the (NIA). I spent 63 days in detention altogether and appeared in court on June 12TH, 2006.

Freedom Newspaper: And how was life at the NIA? Was it bad?

Lamin Fatty: Well, I  don’t want to discuss these issues. Really, I don’t want to discuss these issues at the moment. That was why it was not mentioned at court. I don’t want to discuss these issues at all.

Freedom Newspaper: So you mean that you cannot talk about  your experiences at the NIA? Was it bad?

Lamin Fatty: Well, anyway  I can say it was very horrible. It was very, very horrible, but I don’t want to discuss on these issues at all.

Freedom Newspaper: Were  you threatened that if you talk about your ordeal you would be killed or what?

Lamin Fatty: Pardon? I don’t understand.

Freedom Newspaper: I said,  were you threatened by the Agency that if you should narrate your ordeal, you would be killed?

Lamin Fatty: Nobody so far has relate that message to me so far,.  Honestly speaking.

Freedom Newspaper: But why is it that you are not comfortable talking about your conditions at the NIA?

Lamin Fatty: Well, Pa Nderry, I don’t want to discuss on those issues, dilate on those issues. I think we should discuss on other issues and leave the NIA detention aside. What I’m saying now is that we should all forge ahead and reflect on issues affecting the Gambian media and how to help the situation. I think that is the part I would want us to center our discussion on rather than my detention.

Freedom Newspaper: Was the Independent Management supportive to you during your detention?

Lamin Fatty: Candidly speaking, when I was detained for 63 days and released, I received a phone call from Alagi Yoro Jallow, our Managing Editor. We discussed a lot of issues. He called me again on the 26TH of June 2006 and said he had  wired an amount of four thousand dalasis. I think I have the receipt with me here. I can show you the receipt. Let me be very precise. He sent  me something  like four thousand dalasis. Four thousand and something dalasis. I received that from Yoro Jallow. Honestly speaking Pa Nderry, Yoro Jallow has sent me four thousand dalasis, which he said he gave it  to me from his pocket.

Yoro called me again on the 29TH of June, 2006 last year,  and said he wired D24,900 to me at the Trust Bank, which is equivalent to $800 dollars. Yoro has been very supportive to me during the period. He stood by me throughout my detention.

I have not been in touch with Baba Galleh Jallow. He doesn’t have my phone number. I read his pieces on my arrest on the online papers. The solidarity on the online papers  was there and not financial support. I receive no financial support from him. I’m definitely in need of financial support as I speak to you.

Freedom Newspaper: You mean you are in desperate need of  financial help?

Lamin Fatty: Of course, I need financial support. My Lawyer has just ask me to stop writing for the time being. And obviously,  I have to heed to his advise. Really, what I can tell you is that I’m living in fear. I’m living in fear and my family are not stable. They are very worried.

Freedom Newspaper: Does this means that you are going to leave journalism for good or what?

Lamin Fatty: You saying I’m going to live journalism?

Freedom Newspaper: Yes.

Lamin Fatty: That I’m a journalist. I’m a journalist and shall remain to be a journalist. I don’t see anything that can stop me from practicing my profession. That’s the profession I’m using for the time being for my survival. Journalism is not only about news journalism. You can cover other areas in journalism.

Freedom Newspaper: Are you implying  that you are going to be avoiding political stories that might land you into trouble?

Lamin Fatty: I think that at this very moment, one has to know what to write, when to write it, as far as the press is concerned in this country.

Freedom Newspaper: That sounds interesting. But on other people might argue that if all the journalists should apply self-censorship, it means that there is no need to have press in The Gambia?

Lamin Fatty: Pardon? Can I hear the question again?

Freedom Newspaper: You said people should think about what to write and what not to write before they would run into trouble. I said, is that the type of Gambia you want?

Lamin Fatty: That is not the type of Gambia, I want. I want a Gambia, where there would be freedom, journalists to practice their profession in a professional manner. Press and the government should be partners  and should not see each other as enemies.

Freedom Newspaper: Thanks Mr.Fatty for granting us this interview.

Lamin Fatty: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for the good job.

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Posted on Thursday, June 21, 2007 (Archive on Monday, July 23, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI
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