- The Gambia’s former Miniser of Information, Communication and Technology has been appointed the new Managing Director of the Observer Media Company, the publisher of the pro-government 'Daily Observer' newspaper.
Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, also the Chairperson of the company's Board of Directors, replaced Dida alake who has been demoted to the rank of Editor-in-Chief.
Mr Halake, whose nationality remains questionable, has been managing the affairs of the company since his appointment in November 2007. Until his appointment, Halake who claimed to be a Kenyan of Somali origin or Ethiopian, was based in the United Kingdom. At some point, he claimed to be a British subject.
Mrs. Macdouall-Gaye was the deputy Director General of the Gambia Radio and Televisions Services before she was appointed Minister of Trade and later Information. She was removed from office and appointed The Gambia's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, a position she had reportedly refused to accept.
Mr Halake's demotion has followed his arrest and subsequent detention by Gambian police. His two-day detention was linked to embezzlement of funds at the Observer and state security issues.
Daily Observer, The Gambia's first daily newspaper, was established by a Liberian nobel laureate, Kenneth Best, on 11 May 1992. Mr Best was forced to sell the paper to a prominent tycoon, Amadou Samba, in 1999.
However, going by the government's interest and control over the appointment and sacking of Observer editors and board of directors, it became clear that Mr Samba was only used as a front cover. The ownership transfer was marred by the sacking of all editors and journalists bent on criticising the government of President Yahya Jammeh. Since then, close aid of the ruling APRC have been managing the Daily Observer, formerly a household name in the country.
The paper's decision to slant its hard-earned strong editorial policy has resulted in huge flop in circulation and readership. Apart from denying opposition views, Observer has been turned into a mouthpiece of the government and the ruling party, aggressively promoting its agenda and policies while paying a deaf ear to numerous violations of human rights. The paper is also yet to run a single piece on its missing reporter, Chief Ebrima Manneh, despite being arrested while on duty.
When Mr Halake took over the management and editorship of the Observer, he promised to do his utmost best "to produce the best daily paper" in the country and establish a cordial relations with the local press union and sister paper.
But Halake soon started using his position to undermine and hijack the Gambia Press Union, blackmailing its executive members.
After going through a marathon interrogation during which his nationality, religion and mission to The Gambia were questioned, Halake was released on bail.
Gambian police also arrested and detained a local newspaper reporter while investigating Halake's arrest. Saikou Ceesay spent a night in police cell before he was granted bail.
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