• Posted by Modou S. Joof on March 12, 2010 at 3:01pm
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Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) Understanding Media Laws in The Gambia was the theme of a one-day training programme on Media Laws for Young Journalists organised by the Young Journalists Association of
The Gambia and funded by Vision Media Foundation.
The training, held at the Joint Officers Mess in Kotu brought together 40 young journalists including affiliate members of writers clubs in various schools in the country.
The training is aimed at building the capacity of young journalists in the country to better execute their duties in conformity with the Laws of the land. It also gives young journalists the opportunity to broaden their horizon on the media laws in the country and how they should observe and respect these laws.
In his opening remarks, the Chief Justice of The Gambia Emanuel Agim noted that journalists are partners with the Government in terms of development. “Understanding the laws that govern your profession is very important, but not only about understanding the laws, you have to observe them,” he said.
According to him, responsible journalism cannot accommodate lawlessness and if it does it is the highest level of un-patriotism. “You can, through the media destroy a society within an hour or build one within an hour,” he said.
He urged the participants to acquaint themselves with the law, citing that the Constitution is the most important legal document for practicing journalist. He noted that Section 25 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, however, he pointed out that fundamental rights and freedoms are subjected to limitations.
Justice Agim also calls on journalists to be engaged in investigate thoroughly before sending their information to the public, citing that section 18 of the Criminal Code implore on journalists to investigate properly before publishing their articles.
The President of the Young Journalists Association, Assan Sallah emphasizes that in as much as journalists would observe and respect the rule of law, they must also be aware of their idividual responsibilities and the ethics that govern their profession.
“Most often, in the execution of our duties, most journalists venture into dubious activities while hiding under the disguise of press freedom; not knowing that press freedom encompasses a high sense of responsibility,” he argued.
He said that as agents that keep society informed, entertained and enlightened, we have a great responsibility to promote the socio-economic and political development of society, which we cannot achieve without responsibility in the performance of our duties.
He outlined that journalists should observe the five basic principles of fairness and accuracy, avoid conflict of interest, protection of sources, protection of privacy and use fair methods of investigation.
On the relationship between press laws and professional codes, he said that Codes might; correct the law, replace the law or be in contradiction to the law, whilst Laws might be; insufficient, not suitable or even lacking behind.
“Press code is not a law because laws are binding, compulsory and are changeable whilst codes are practical and journalists can always rely on them when in doubt about decisions and as well as defending their decisions,” he said adding that journalists should alway speak or write the truth for the sake of CREDIBILITY.
He said: “We should not compromise our personality; we should have self-respect, we should be honest, we should not target anyone because of personal problem/grievances and we shouldn’t be too pushy or aggressive.”
He quoted Chinua Achebe, one of Africa’s greatest poets from Nigeria to have once said: “The cock that crows in the morning belongs to the household, but its voice is the property of the whole neighbourhood.”
The quotation, he said is a clear interpretation of private ownership and public function, in relation to journalists’ attitude towards the profession.
He noted that since the inception of YJAG, the association has prioritized capacity building for its members, as stipulated in its Constitution; to enable young journalists to execute their
functions in society as expected and contribute immensely to the development of
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