Sunday, May 5, 2013

Minister looks forward to ‘credible’ Government-Media partnership

World Press Freedom Day procession in The Gambia, the first on May 3 since 2001 (Photo Credit: MSJOOF/Globe/FPI)
Nana Grey Johnson has told journalists on Friday he hopes the Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure can forge a “dependable and credible Government- Media partnership”.

Speaking on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2013 at the home of NGOs in The Gambia, TANGO,  in Bakau, the Minister of Information said the media has the right to criticise and to freely express criticism of government and governance.

“After three century of modern society the newspaper that has grown in to the generic umbrella of media has had an intrinsic role to play in the functions of government,” he said.

However, Johnson shy-away from discussing pertinent issues like reform of  draconian media laws, the need for a freedom of information law and the arbitrary closure of independent media houses.
He also accuses the media for reporting negatively about the country, which according to him, is driving away investors.

“Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media,” is the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

The Gambia Press Union-organised event supported by TANGO and the International Center for Journalists, ICFJ, was held in the form of a “policy dialogue” meant to engage in an analytical overview of the media situation in The Gambia and its ramifications on national development.

Gibairu Janneh, Secretary General of GPU call on The Gambia Government through the Minister of Information “to reopen The Daily News, The Standard and Taranga FM”. The three media houses were closed by the government since last year.

“We are making our appeal because the GPU is in firm belief that the closure of these media houses adds nothing to the development of The Gambia.  At least we are all in the business of national development; each of us must be a contributor towards that development,” he said.

Ousman Yarboe, Director of TANGO hopes the Day offer the opportunity to make the Gambia a better place. He recognises the critical role of the media in national development.

While reflecting on journalists killed on the line of duty, Mr Yarboe said: “We should reflect on all aspects of media work. Journalists have a responsibility to provide the right information to the public at the right time.”
As part of celebrations, a procession was held from Africell on Kairaba Avenue to the TANGO office. The procession is the first held on May 3 since 2001.

Madi Jobarteh, programme manager of TANGO, said freedom of speech is critical to all other rights as it is an inherent right that gives meaning to all other human rights.

“Freedom of expression is an inherent human right that no one can confer on anyone and no one has the right to take from anyone,” he said.Of all the rights that people enjoy, probably the right that is so critical to the enjoyment of all other rights is free speech."

The media and journalists in the tiny West African nation have seen numerous violations of press freedom and free expression for over a decade – ranging from harassment, arrests and detention, exile, arson, disappearance and in some instances, killed.

In December 1993, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted May 3 as World Press Freedom Day, following a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991 Windhoek, Namibia.

That Seminar led to the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media which calls for the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press and its role in the development and maintenance of democracy.

On this Day, journalists and media practitioners reflect on the challenges of press freedom and free expression and as well salute colleagues who have fallen victims of repression and recognise those who have made significant contributions to the advancement of a free, independent and pluralistic media. READ ORIGINAL STORY HERE

Written by Modou S. Joof

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