Gambian journalist Mustapha Darboe deserves national recognition

Mustapha Darboe is a journalist par excellence and we must be proud that he is a Gambian. Mustapha has used his work to highlight issues affecting hard to reach communities and our society’s most disadvantaged people.

His stories bring attention to some of the most under-reported issues and is the only Gambian journalist that has so far reported both nationally and internationally on the migration crisis in the country with depth and insight.

Mustapha Darboe’s reporting on the migration crisis has helped saved a good number of Gambian lives. His recent reports have helped save the lives of two Gambian migrants: Sulayman Janko, a 24-year old Gambian national who has been shot by rebels and Fatou Ceesay with her seven-month-old baby who was languishing in a Libyan jail.

Mustapha’s breaking stories on migration and on disparities in education, for example, prompted swift responses from authorities. His stories lead to results, from taking children out of under the tree classes to real classrooms to having medical supplies delivered urgently to under-served hospitals.

You will be touched by Mustapha’s stories, whether it is about Hamat Jeng, an ambitious boy, who takes classes under a tree outside Kudang and says he wants to be a president “to help farmers and teachers” or be it the corruption and deteriorating conditions at the country’s main teaching hospital.

He rallied publishers to publish stories, like in the case of Fatou Ceesay, bringing so much attention to it that the country’s Vice President, Fatoumata Tambajang made sure she never went to sleep without addressing Fatou Ceesay and her baby’s situation until they were freed from the deplorable Libyan detention center.

This is what journalism is about. We must cheer and appreciate Mustapha’s work – a young man who has championed the cause of freedom and human rights at a time it is deadliest to be a journalist in our nation.

To both — his editing and writing — Mustapha Darboe brought a clarity of vision and commitment to principles well worth remembering, and very much worth emulating today.

I knew him only through his work, and here is a Gambian that has truly used journalism as a “voice” for the people. We must honor, appreciate and celebrate such selflessness, dedication and professionalism. Mustapha Darboe, therefore, deserves a national award and more. He is a young man but has already built the reputation of a legend.

I tell you now, he will tell you that there is nothing fancy about Mustapha Darboe: that he is just an old-fashioned beat reporter who loves the news, takes nothing for granted. I will tell you that he never wrote a story unless he was absolutely sure he had it right.

TV personalities and well-known newspaper bylines come and go, but reporters like Mustapha Darboe are the reason Gambian journalism will evolve into the crucial source of independently gathered and accurate information for citizens.

Mustapha Darboe is a genre of its own and must be placed very high up in our Journalism Hall of Fame. Today, he is the epitome of journalistic competence and excellence that we must all aspire to become.

He stands out on his own, so I will not compare him to any of the world’s renowned journalists. They just have a bigger platform than him. Such a comparison will only discredit a young man, who achieved the highest level of journalistic pragmatism and decency, even though at times, in the bad old days of dictatorship, he had to struggle against oppressive forces to maintain the thin line between objectivity and bias.

He is a master in the art of effectively reporting the news in a politically-charged environment where political interference in reporting the news is commonplace. His indomitable will to be the best ensured his survival, growth and ultimate eminence.

Mustapha – a small man with a big heart, unfailing and unwavering – captures the essence of the story in every report. It is never about him, it is always about the people in the heart of the story. He is indeed a master at disseminating news that matters in his usual candid style and plays a pivotal role in keeping our people well informed and our government honest.

Mustapha should stand proudly on the journalistic pedestal of our nation and President Adama Barrow should give him a national award, and not, without doubt, the Gambia Press Union should especially recognize Mustapha Darboe for upholding the true values of journalism even in the most trying times.

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