Born in Banjul on 8 th October, 1950, he obtained his degree in mathematics and physics which he taught for seven years. But being fully aware that the liberty and prosperity of the people is unattainable by mere declaration of independence so long as the people remained ignorant, he focused his attention on journalism so that they become informed and enlightened.
He joined the media at a time when the media was dominated by one radio station, owned by the government, and the only other (privately owned) radio station was not allowed to broadcast news or even announce the activities of political parties. The then existing newspapers which were run by single individuals had limited circulation mainly in Banjul and limited impact as well. There was need for alternative voice that would pursue the mission of taking the people out of ignorance. This led to the founding of Foroyaa, a Mandinka word meaning freedom.
Before even the founding of this paper he was arrested with his wife and others and detained for seven months under a state of emergency in 1983 before he appeared in court. The case was withdrawn after their second appearance.
He was guided by the principle of publishing the truth in good faith in the public interest in his pursuit of journalism, and in this regard he was ready to face any consequences. What matters to him is not the impending danger posed by a publication or activity but the defence of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. For this reason, he did not hesitate to devote his time and energy to serve as an adviser during the leadership of Hon. Madi Ceesay and Madam Ndey Tapha Sosseh, respectively, at a time when the GPU and the media were embattled and freedom of expression was smothered.
Journalists were gunned down or incarcerated either unlawfully or using draconian media laws in kangaroo courts, media houses and homes of journalists were set ablaze or closed down and civil society organisations were intimated, but he remained undaunted and continued his pursuits for free expression and free media.
He soon became a centre for pursuing the freedom of detained journalists who were charged with sedition and libel, getting them counsels and raising funds for legal fees. Foroyaa, the paper he edited, also reported every single violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the media and advocated against such practices.
He, together with five other journalists, were again arrested, tried and sentenced to two years in prison for sedition and libel in 2009.
He decided to defend himself and not to take a legal counsel because he wanted to use the opportunity to defend the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
Under pressure, the regime had to succumb and release them all. On the day of his release a scenario was created for him to thank the president for his release but he refused and went his way.
I cannot conclude without mentioning that the first confrontation that AFPRC had in 1994 was with Foroyaa when publication of the paper continued in defiance of its ban.
Two of its editors were arrested and in the midst of this he continued with a report of the proceedings in a different platform.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on stage, GPU’S 2022 HERO OF PRESS FREEDOM, Mr. SAMUEL OSSEH SARR (commonly known as SAM SARR) of the FOROYAA NEWSPAPER
NOTE: The GPU Press Freedom Hero Award is given to people who have promoted and defended press freedom and freedom of expression and have rendered selfless service in support of the media and media development in The Gambia.