Sunday, March 20, 2011

Government-Media meeting: Not a bad start

Madi Ceesay, Publisher & Proprietor The Daily News
The Publisher and Proprietor of The Daily News, Madi MK Ceesay has said the recent meeting between the Government of The Gambia and the Independent Press is not a bad start.
The meeting, held of March 16 is aimed at strengthening government-media relations. In an interview with The Voice, Mr. Ceesay said: “it’s not a bad start as there was a long standing of difference between the two, however my take on the meeting is that, government is still on the defensive.”
“The media have put their concern very clearly on the table; it’s only wise of the government to look into those concerns raised. If there is to be any head way for the relationship which is gone bad on a yearly basis then the government of the day has to accept the realities. That is media freedom is suffering a lot,” he said on Saturday.
“The establishment of several newspapers and radios is not enough to measure the press freedom of a nation, but rather the environment within which the media operates.”

Progress
On this issue, he said there is progress but it is very minimal, the progress is that for 17 years the president of the nation never allows such, so the fact that he allows it is progress in itself. He should only be more open and accept the criticism advanced by the media and see how to tackle them.
On concerns raised by the Executive that journalists are not well trained, Mr. said: “Well they have a right to their opinion, but on the contrary I differ from their position. What they and those who think like them fail to understand is that journalism is a profession which if anyone has a good command of the medium of communication in our case English language, one can do it.”
You do not necessarily have to bag a degree to the job, he added, citing that in many developed countries there are big names in the profession who are graduates in other fields and not journalism; there are others who have never sat in journalism classes.
“Of course one has to learn the skills whiles on the job. But again if training was a big issue why not governments have a school of journalism in the University of the GAMBIA? Is that not a responsibility for them as a government? The blame syndrome is no solution to it,” Mr. Ceesay stressed.

Media Commission
Mr. Ceesay was the Vice President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) when the government wanted to institute a media commission in 2002, however, the told The Voice that it failed because the whole Commission was just a trap. “It was not near a regulatory body instead it was a body empowered to imprison journalist,” he said.
He added that in a country like Ghana where “am sure they borrow the idea” the composition is 75 percent media. The other bad aspect of the commission was that journalists have to be licensed and that license is renewable annually. Basis on those points the GPU felt is was not the type. We rather go in for a self regulatory one.

Deyda Affair
The Gambian leader at the meeting revealed that state agents were ordered to seek permission from the GPU before interrogating the two eye witnesses who were with Deyda at the time he was shot, but Mr. Ceesay said: “As a government who are we a mere union to deter state agents from interrogating those ladies. I do not think we have powers to stop them; government has all the powers to interrogate them until this day.”
“I think government should just reopen the investigations into this unlawful killing and bring those responsible to book,” he concluded.

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