|Minister Sonko (L) with Pa Malick Faye, Daily Observer MD|
Gambia’s Minister of Interior, Mr. Ousman Sonko Saturday remark that “trust must exist between journalists and security personnel” when he presided over the opening ceremony of the 4th Anniversary and 2nd Congress of the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG).
Mr. Sonko, who was honoured by the rare opportunity given to him, said journalists should be on familiar terms with security chiefs, stating that “it should not be difficult for an officer to confirm that someone has been arrested.” “But sometimes it could be difficult to tell immediately what next will happen to the person, what measures will be taken against the person or why he or she is arrested.”
The event, held at the Kanifing Municipal Council Multipurpose Complex, Jimpex Road, Kanifing, was under the theme “The Role of Journalists in Elections” with training on “Election Reporting for YJAG Members” held alongside the anniversary and biennial congress, intended to give the participants a better understanding of their position and responsibilities in election reportage.
The media plays a very crucial role in national development, he said on October 22, reiterating similar comments made by his contemporaries during an-August 2011 Commonwealth Media Forum and an-October 2011 training for journalists on “International Standards on Freedom of Expression in Banjul, The Gambia.
“Security personnel are not enemies of the press. We are partners in development,” Minister Sonko said, while revealing that a team of security personnel has been put in place to meet with the Gambia Press Union (GPU) to chart the way forward during the process and conduct of the November 24, 2011 presidential elections.
Mr Sonko added that a training programme for Gambia security, journalists, electoral commission officials and all other stakeholders in the election process will be held at the Fajara Army Barracks hopefully this week.
|L-R: Outgoing YJAg President, Assan Sallah; Emil Touray, GPU President; Pa Malick Faye, Daily Observer MD|
In his last address to YJAG members as President, Mr Assan Sallah, outgoing, said the day marks an important milestone in the annals of the association, a moment of reflection on “our achievements”, an end of term “for my executive and the beginning of a new term for the incoming executive.”
On the theme “The Role of Journalists in Elections”, Mr Sallah said “you will all agree with me that elections are the cornerstone of any democracy and the media has a vital role in informing the public about what the politicians are promising and to tell the politicians what ordinary people want, or do not want, as well as ensuring that elections are free and fair.” “Therefore the importance of the proposed training on election reporting is also very important.”
The GPU President and Board Member YJAG, Mr Bai Emil Touray, praised the association for being able to handle its affairs maturely. “Every organisation has shortcomings, but there was no point where I come across articles on publications YJAG members chastising each other,” he said.
He advised: “We should always be careful in executing our duties as journalists. Do not allow anybody to use you as a tool for destruction. Elections should not serve as a mechanism for crisis, and it is important that we conduct ourselves during this period and avoid publishing hate speeches.”
Mr Touray also urge the Minister of Interior, Mr Ousman Sonko to talk to his security personnel to create an enabling environment for journalists during the 2011-2013 cycle of elections in The Gambia.
The Managing Director of the Daily Observer, Pa Malick Faye, exhort young journalists to step up their efforts to handling decision making positions across media platforms and in their reportage. He also calls for unity among young journalists in The Gambia.
Mr. Nfamara Jawneh, the pioneer president of YJAG, in an honorary statement, said “unity has been the overriding force behind the successes of the association since its inception in 2007.”
He used the platform to announce the initiation of the “Special YJAG Pioneer President Award” to be given out to one member of YJAG annually based on the person’s outstanding contribution to the association. The first of it kind, the award goes to YJAG’s outgoing 1st Vice President, Aminata Sanneh, who has served in two executive committees since 2007.
The opening ceremony was chaired by the former GPU Treasurer, Pa Modou Faal, who is also the national coordinator of African Malaria Media Research Network (AMMREN) - The Gambia.
- Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice newspaper