The Minister of Information and Communications Technology Ebrima Sillah has said that the Protection of Media is a necessary precondition to democracy and good Governance citing that the Government of the Gambia has the responsibility to remove legal and institutional obstacles.
He said the Gambia Government through his Ministry remain Committed to engaging all stakeholders, particularly the media particularly in the pursuit of strengthening journalism in the Gambia. The Minister made this remarks during a recent visit by officials from the Dakar Based Open Society for West Africa- OSIWA.
“The Government of the Gambia has been engaged in since February 2017 to ensure that measures are put in place for a fully informed Gambia Society. Concrete steps have been taken to create an enabling legal environment and policy framework thereby creating the space for a free, Pluralistic and responsible media” he said
GPU Secretary General Saikou Jammeh accompanied the OSIWA officials which included Policy analyst Jegan Grey- Johnson and Fatoy Sy to the University of the Gambia where 25 journalists are being trained on investigative journalism.
The two months Investigative training is part of a 60 thousand US Dollar Project funded by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). The Project entitled ‘Investigative Journalism for Democratic Governance and inclusive Development’ is jointly being implemented by the University of the Gambia and the Gambia Press Union.
The project which targets 50 Journalists has already commenced with the first batch of 25 being trained in investigative journalism. 25 other Journalists are also expected to be trained on Court reporting which starts in September.
Policy analyst for Open Society Initiative for West Africa Jegan Grey-Johnson said the intensive two months training for Gambian Journalists on Investigative reporting is the start of a long Journey. He said OSIWA has also secured training packages for non state actors’ in the Gambia. He noted that the environment for journalism is still not favourable despite the change of leadership in the Gambia. He said OSIWA is trying to use the opportunity at its disposal to work with Journalist, Lawyers, and Activists so as to make things change in the Gambia.
“There is No Freedom of Information Act, No Whistle Blower protection Laws. There is not so much that you (Journalists) can do in the Gambia and that makes it difficult for you to do their work,” he told journalists.
“When it comes to investigative Journalism we still have in the 1997 Constitution Laws that criminalise Libel, defamation and Sedition. These laws are obstacle as it makes it physically impossible for Journalist to do their work no matter how much training they receive” he added.
He said there is a failure of expectation but there is renewed expectation for good things to happen, not only changes in individuals but also changes in processes, changes on laws and changes to the system.
This he said is the reason why OSIWA deems it important to fund the two months training for Journalist on Investigative reporting and one month training on Court reporting.
Also addressing the journalists Tem Fuhmbuh of OSIWA said that the Gambia is going through a transition and in such transition, transparency and accountability are Paramount.
He said OSIWA is of the opinion that through this project they will be able to create a new cadre of journalist in the Gambia who would be able to dig into the truth and inform the public reliably.
“You are charged with a very important responsibility by undertaking this course as we expect you to be the vanguard of truth and accountability in the Gambia. We expect you to be those that will make the public of the Gambia know what is exactly going on in terms of Governance in your country”
Fatou Sey of OSIWA said Journalists play a very important role and she tasked the Journalists to take advantage of the course and serve their country better. She Said training is part of OSIWA’s contribution to the new Gambia.
Saikou Jabbi one of the trainees said the training will enhance their profession. He thanked the donors for coming to the aid of Gambian Journalists saying that this kind of training is first of its kind. He promised that the skills and knowledge acquired from this training will be put into practice.
By Salifu M. Touray