In NIA 9 Trial, Star FM Denies Wrongdoing

By Abdoulie John

The management of Star FM has strongly denied the allegations that the radio is misrepresenting facts. This was a response to allegations made by a senior defense counsel representing the former Director General of the defunct National Intelligence Agency Yankuba Badjie. Lawyer C. E. Mene threatened to sue local Mandinka news anchor Sarjo Barrow for contempt of court if he continues to misrepresent facts in his client’s court proceedings.

“We are disappointed that lawyer Mene did not reach out to us before making his accusations,” Star FM’s General Manager Sara Camara said, describing the “criticism” as “justified.”

Lawyer Mene last Wednesday used the trial of the NIA 9 accused of murdering opposition pro-electoral reform activist Ebrima Solo Sandeng and took a swipe at veteran news broadcaster Sarjo Barrow, accusing him of “deliberately distorting the evidence in court.” The counsel said Star FM Mandinka press reviewer is “exposing my client to hostility.” Lawyer Mene’s complaint had prompted Justice Kumba Sillah to state that the court is an open court, and that journalists are free to cover the proceedings. She however urged court reporters to be mindful of the accuracy and certainty of what they are reporting.

Star FM Manager would not sit by and allow anything to litter the popular radio’s reputation. Sara Camara is therefore ready to make Mr. Barrow’s recorded audio reviews available to the court where necessary.  “We will not jeopardize the court proceedings,” he assured.

As a matter of fact, Star FM boss said the story in question was not read by Sarjo Barrow. “There was no news regarding the NIA 9 on Monday. In Tuesday’s press review, he did not mention the name of the first accused person Yankuba Badjie.”

Star FM Chief Executive Officer Alpha Karaga said Sarjo Barrow has more than 30 years of experience in the media. “He is relying on local newspapers to present the press review in local language,” he added. “This is one of the country’s most-listened to radio programs.”

The second-in-command of the Serekunda-based FM station recalled that since 2012 Star FM has been doing the same thing, and nobody has ever made a complaint about the program. “The question becomes why complaints are coming in now?” he quizzed while showing some signs of perplexity.

Alpha Karaga said the management of the radio and staff are doing their best to make sure they are factual in their reporting. He challenged Lawyer Mene to provide evidence of his allegations.

The tussle between defence counsel Mene and Star FM comes against the
backdrop of Gambia’s new democratic dispensation in which the new
government has made pronouncements announcing an era of great hope for
the media.

The Gambia’s Information Minister Demba Ali Jawo, who is an emblematic figure of the battle for press freedom in Africa, has assured Gambia Press Union (GPU) of government commitment to freedom of the media, and promised to make sure that Yahya Jammeh’s obnoxious media laws are repealed in a near future.


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