Gambia: global solidarity works
Today I was part of a delegation to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of a global day of action for press freedom in the Gambia, and it taught me a lesson about how worthwhile our global solidarity campaigns can be – on a really personal level.
Coming the week after we celebrated once again what was probably the first ever global solidarity success – the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival – it was a salutary reminder that solidarity works.
The delegation to the FCO consisted of Amnesty International, the International Federation of Journalists, the TUC and Sarata Jabbi, Vice President of the Gambian Press Union. A year ago, I had joined Amnesty and the IFJ (and the British National Union of Journalists) outside the Gambian High Commission, protesting about the trial of Gambian journalists on trumped up charges of sedition (basically, criticising the President). Sarata was one of those journalists, and several weeks of campaigning over the summer got her and her colleagues released.
Sarata told the FCO officials about what the trial, conviction and release meant to her. She had a baby shortly before the trial, and was still nursing her baby when she was jailed in early August 2009, sentenced for two years. The social services took her baby away, and the promise that her baby would be returned for breastfeeding turned out to be a lie. She said that the food they were given in prison was not properly cooked and that the jail was an appalling place. Getting Sarata and her colleagues out of jail after just a month was a major achievement – and although the Presidential pardon they received was the result of many factors, the campaign of global solidarity was a vital element of it.
Sarata is a very brave woman, and a very committed trade unionist, and I’m proud that the TUC was able to help set her free.