The government of The Gambia is open to allowing the media have a self-regulatory body but such progress can only be made through fruitful dialogue, according to a deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information.
On Sunday, Malick Jones said The Gambia has come far from where “we were because we can today boast of at least 14 radio stations, a public television and 7 newspapers – four of which are daily.”
On May 3, 2015, a World Press Freedom Day event organised by the Gambia Press Union, UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, was held under the theme “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age.”
“The government wants to better the relations and this can only work if we sit down and talk,” said Mr. Jones, also a prominent veteran broadcaster. “If this happens, we can regulate ourselves, not the government regulating us. We can learn a lot from Senegal and Ghana in this respect. We are waiting for funds from UNESCO to facilitate the self-regulation for the media in the country.”
Mr. Jones also suggested that the media engages in more development reporting in the country which the international media is not seeing.
“I think there is a lot of development taking place in Africa that the international media is not saying and you can do that,” he added. “You can report on development issues. We will one day take off some of the things that you deem are not favorable to your operations.”
Open space for independent media
Mahamane Cisse, UN Human Rights Africa Office Director, said world press freedom day reminds the world about freedom of the press and expression.
He said it reminds all nations to “open space for independent media” as it plays a vital role in the development of any nation – it provides critical information to citizens to make an informed decision in the way they are governed.
Bai Emil Touray, president of Gambia Press Union, said it is a Day of reflection and stocktaking in mapping out the way forward for journalism.
“Let’s remember those who fought very hard in promoting and defending media freedom in The Gambia like the late William Dixon Colley, Deyda Hydra and Baboucarr Gaye,” he said.
He noted that GPU will continue to advocate for media freedom which is the reason “we are challenging” the government on “false news” and “sedition” at the Supreme Court.
“We are planning to file a law suit on the ‘publication of false news on the internet’ as we want to take advantage of the democratic institutions,” he said.
Touray urged journalists to adhere to the code of conduct and for media chiefs to motivate their staff. He calls on government to make sure that the media laws are in line with international standards, and to enact a freedom of information law that is not only “viable for journalists but academics, researchers and citizens.”
On December 20, 1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed May 3 as World Press Freedom Day to reflect on the principles of press freedom, evaluation of press freedom, and renewal of commitment to freedom and paying respect to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty.