M.B. Jones: A fearless newspaper is an indispensable tool for progress

11 Apr

Historical records of Mr Jones writing shows he was radical, and an activist journalist who wrote with authority.


English: Picture of Gambian women in the Serra...

Jones said the newspaper can be an indispensable tool for [economic] progress. Gambian women in the Serekunda market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 By Modou S. Joof

“A fearless, outspoken, unbiased newspaper is not only a desideratum to a backward and underdeveloped nation, but an indispensable tool for progress,” Gambian journalist Melville Benoni Jones wrote in an editorial in the Outlook on May 3, 1960.
Historical chronicles about Mr Jones writing and journalism has shown him to be radical and an activist journalist who wrote with authority.
In a recent account, a Gambian historian described him as having combined “crusading journalism with militant politics and trade unionism to challenge British colonial rule.”
But what did the man popularly known as “M.B. Jones”, whose work pre and post colonialism included the fight for a free and independent press, meant by (a fearless, outspoken, unbiased newspaper… indispensable tool for progress)?


Gambian historian and researcher Mr Hassoum Ceesay explains:

“What Jones meant when he said ‘fearless’ is to do what you are supposed to do [as a journalist] knowing fully that you are not breaking any law.
“Outspoken’ means to say it [an issue] as it is no matter whose ox is gored (or regardless of who is angered), and

“Unbiased’ means to be ready to listen to anybody who comes or want to put across his message but it does not necessarily mean you will publish every view.”
Tool for progress
A newspaper as a tool for progress, will create jobs, ensure educational development, and keep people informed on important national issues and pay taxes, according to Ceesay, whose writeup ‘Jones, Melville Benoni “M.B.” (1918-1992) was published by the Oxford University Press on February 14, 2014.
On creating employment for instance, Ceesay said this newspaper will provide jobs for a reporter, typist, sub editor, news editor, layout editor, proof reader, managing editor, editor in chief, distributor and marketer.
The late Mr Jones was mentored by journalist cum trade unionist Edward Francis Small at the Gambia Outlook. He had also edited the Vanguard and Gambia Outlook. He was also at the centre of efforts to establish what is today known as The Gambia Press Union, the main journalists’ body.
54 years on this May, M.B. Jones’s strong editorial statement is still relevant in today’s Gambia, a developing country where a small independent press is stifled.
From 2012-14, several journalists were without jobs after the arbitrary closure of two newspapers and an FM radio station.





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