Young Journalists Association of The , is seriously concerned about the closure of media houses, the job losses it caused to the young journalists and the threat it poses to the future of journalism in The Gambia, outgoing President Modou S. Joof , YJAGsaid on Saturday.
Following the closure of Taranga FM (radio), The Daily News and The Standard newspapers in August and September 2012, many young journalists have been without jobs for more than one year, Mr Joof said.
The theme for the 6th anniversary and 3rd congress of YJAG was “Towards greater press freedom and job security for young journalists in The Gambia”.
Speaking at the Secretariat of The Gambia Press Union at Fajara, Joof said: “For instance, at The Standard newspaper where up to 51 people were employed most of them young journalists; only 7 have managed to secure jobs within the media since the closure of the paper.”
“At The Daily News where 14 young journalists were employed, only one managed to secure a job since the closure of the paper one year-on,” he added.
According to him, the arbitrary shutdown of media houses defeat the purpose of press freedom, free expression, the desire to establish a more vibrant and independent media.
He said it is farce to say that young journalists are the nursery bed for the proper germination of the seeds of journalism in The Gambia – in a situation where two or three people can walk into a newspaper or radio and ordered for a shutdown without taking into consideration the internationally accepted three part test of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.
Under this Convention, restrictions to free expression are only permissible if: Provided by law, Necessary in a democratic society, and Pursue a legitimate aim.
“Therefore, we will once again use this platform to reiterate our calls for the Government of The Gambia to reopen these media houses in the interest of press freedom, freedom of expression, the public’s right to know, job opportunities for the young, and the establishment of a democratic society,” he said.
YJAG Board Chairperson, Njundu Drammeh, said the theme is relevant. He said the figures mentioned by Mr Joof regarding job losses of young journalists due the closure of media houses are “disheartening”.
While encouraging YJAG to continue the good and hard work, he noted that the role of the press in a democratic society is very vital in pushing the development of the society.
“Responsible press provides forum for democracy and good governance in any country. It provides understanding of the real situation,” he said. “Freedom of the press is very important for the development of democratic society.”
You cannot have a robust and vibrant democracy and good governance without the freedom of the press, Mr Drammeh added.
Also, he called on the Government of The Gambia to re-consider its decision and to re-open media houses that have been closed. The closure of these media houses is worrying, he added.
Mr Drammeh also called on the media chiefs to create better working conditions, better pay and more training for young journalists in the country.
Bubacarr Ceesay, 1st Vice President of the GPU, who described the day as “historic”, commends YJAG for been exemplary among journalists organisations affiliated to the GPU.
“YJAG is one of the affiliates of the GPU that we are very proud of because of the types of activities (trainings and welfare of members) they are always involved in,” said Ceesay who represented the GPU Executive Director Gibairu Janneh.
“I commended YJAG for standing side by side with the GPU in the fight for press freedom and freedom of expression,” he said.
YJAG has contributed tremendously to the development of the media in Gambia, especially news reportage and capacity building of its members.