As the tiny West African nation continues to navigate through transition, editors from various media outlets have vowed to upholding ethical practices of journalism at a time of mounting challenges. The media boom that followed the end of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorship has prompted Gambia Press Union (GPU) and its partners to forge ahead with the creation of a professional Editors Forum.
“The setting up of the Editors Forum is an important first step to help create a platform for editors to discuss about critical issues affecting the profession,” Information Minister Ebrima Sillah said in his keynote address at the launch of the much-awaited press association held on Saturday evening at Ocean Bay Hotel in Cape Point, about 7 km away from Banjul.
Gambia is emerging from two-decades of ‘rule of fear’ during which journalists were the leading targets of the Jammeh regime. Since the advent of New Gambia, journalists continue to enjoy ‘greater space of freedom’, raising the specter of tribal divisions in the political spectrum. A situation that prompted United Nations Development Programme (UN) and West African Peace Building Network (WANEP) to partner with GPU with a view to helping media practitioners to desist from exacerbating divisions among communities.
Minister Sillah, who was among the exiled Gambian journalists persecuted by ex-dictator Jammeh, decried the fact that some editors are failing to pay attention to certain fundamentals.
“This has to some extent affected professionalism in the media,” he deplored.
He seized the opportunity to reiterate government’s commitment to creating a conducive environment for the entire media fraternity to perform and do their job effectively.
He announced that in tandem with GPU, his ministry has finalized the document relating to media laws.
Sillah assured that the bill will be tabled before the country’s lawmakers before end of December 2018.
Speaking earlier, GPU Secretary General Saikou Jammeh said they realised that for the sector to develop in a very sustainable way, there is a need to establish the Editors Forum.
Saikou Jammeh said he believes that the Editors Forum was the missing element in a number of associations that are supporting GPU core mandate.
He then added that WANEP is aware of the fact that the country is going through a very fragile period and critical times are lying ahead. “They have interest in engaging the editors so that we can develop a sensitive media environment,” he said.
WANEP National Network Coordinator Anna Jones reminded the gathering that the country is undergoing various reforms.
She emphasized the important role the media has to play in promoting peace and stability in the country as journalists can help resolving conflict rather than perpetuating it.
WANEP’s Anna Jones expressed hope that the setting up of the professional Editors Forum will set the pace in upholding journalism standards and guide reporters in their work.
Outgoing UN Resident Coordinator, Ade Mamonyane-Lekoetje, commended GPU for taking the lead in partnering with WANEP to come up with a concept note on conflict-sensitive reporting.
She reiterated UN support for the initiative spearheaded by GPU and WANEP to seek consensus and map the way forward.
UN Rep. further stated that the peace the country is enjoying should not be taken for granted as the media actions can endanger social cohesion.
“Your reports can also help educate, reconcile people as well as inspire patriotism,” she remarked.
She further stated that the media has the potential to reinforcing social cohesion that can enable a more just peaceful coexistence.
Sharing his experience on Editors Forum established within West Africa, George Sarpong said the media must be able to facilitate dialogue among people, making it very clear that the freedom granted by gov’t should be used to achieving nation building.
He said our freedom is only justified if we use it to support the people of The Gambia to overcome the challenges it is facing.
“That is why the idea of an organised forum by the leaders of the media becomes so important for reflection and rededication,” he said.
At the end of the launching ceremony, editors agreed to meet in two-week time in order to discuss about a similar body that was set up some years by Foroyaa’s Managing Editor Sam Sarr, and see how it would be possible to take over the existing project.
Written by Abdoulie JOHN