The President of Gambia Press Union, GPU Ndey Tapha Sosseh has noted that the struggle for freer societies continues at sub-regional, regional and international levels.
In her statement relayed by Momodou Faal, the GPU Treasurer on World Press Freedom Day 2011 (May 3), she said “the cause for which we gather in Banjul is the same that we seek, pursue and push constantly in West Africa and in Africa.
“The struggle for freedom of expression, societies where people have the right to speech, the right to information, the right to have an opinion and to make choices openly, are the struggles that have kept me away on important days like today,” she said.
The event, funded by the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Action Aid International-The Gambia, was held under a global theme “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers”.
However, Ms Sosseh said the theme is an apt reminder of “how far we have come” and “how far we need to go”. The developments in new media are yet to become a threat to traditional media in The Gambia as is the case in other parts of the world.
She argued that the traditional media will live on, so long as access to and affordability of new media tools remain out of reach of ordinary Gambians.
Nonetheless, she pointed out that the benefits of new media outweigh the downside of it, while calling on Gambian media personnel and media institutions to join what she called the “bandwagon” and take merits of the unending possibilities and reach that comes with new developments in information communication technologies (ICTs).
According to her, media institutions and their audience have a lot more to gain.
She charged that the occasion should serve as a day of reflection for departed colleagues, while calling for a spare of though for sport journalist Lamin A. Darboe who lost his life in a ferry accident in November 2010.
The Union ceases this opportunity to once again to remind the Gambia Port Authority and other responsible state agencies to ensure that findings of enquiry are made public, she said.
“Each passing day, each May 3 is a Day for the GPU to remember Deyda Hydra, a symbol of the values of open societies, freedom of speech and expression. Values he constantly reflected on and stood for.
Our thoughts are also extended to the Manneh family, every passing day is a day too long for the answer we seek together with them, where is Chief Ebrima Manneh,” she stressed.
Away from home, Eritrea is one among many countries in Africa where press freedom is virtually non-existent. This year, the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) launched a campaigned on Eritrean Journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day, and Ms Sosseh charge members of the GPU to send a solidarity message out to journalists in jails, disappeared and killed in Eritrea for doing their job.
“Let us not forget that numbers aside, we do have some common traits with them,” she said.
Earlier on, the Principal Programme Officer National Commission for UNESCO in Banjul, Yaya Almatarr Jobe, said noted that Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by United Nations in 1948, guarantees fundamental rights to freedom of expression.
This, he said encompasses the freedom to seek, receive and impart information ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
He noted that UNESCO promotes free expression, a free press and foster media independence and pluralism by proving advisories to the media by making governments, parliamentarians and other decision makers to be aware and guarantee the need for freedom of expression.
“Thanks to new technologies and the media, people are able to share information, views and ideas within and outside national boarders,” he said.
“This year’s World Press Freedom Day also marks the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the promotion of free and pluralistic media. The Declaration was adopted after a conference held in Windhoek (Namibia) on the development of a free African press,” according to UNESCO.