By Makutu Manneh
Sarata Ceesay, Speaker of the Children National Assembly of the Gambia, has urged Gambian journalists to do more positive stories on children and women than only reporting on the negative aspects.
“Many times, news reports or stories about women and children in The Gambia are either about abuses or other negative issues. You need to move beyond that because they’re lot of positive stories about women and children across the country that the rest of the world should know about,” she said.
Speaking at the launch of the guild of social affairs correspondents in the Gambia on Wednesday 9 June 2021, Ceesay said not much coverage is accorded to children and women issues compared to other aspects of life in the country.
Speaker Ceesay shared her optimism that with the guild of reporters’ initiative, journalists will be reporting more on children and women but in the manner that their dignity is respected.
While calling on the minimisation of biased and negative reporting on children and women in the country, Ceesay said journalists need to be informed and maintain consciousness about issues of women and children in order to promote extensive and responsible reporting on these vulnerable groups in her society.
Gardon Jonathan Lewis, UNICEF country representative to the Gambia, informed the reporters that the Guild is predicated on four fundamental pillars which are, a more balanced, responsible and ethical reporting on children and women; in-depth coverage of matters affecting children and women; more positive coverage of children and women; and a stronger voice for children and adolescents in the media.
“Let me underscore that it’s our collective responsibility to protect every child, everywhere, from harm and the risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and discrimination,” he said.
Mr. Lewis added that it is their responsibility to ensure that children are not mere spectators when they discuss issues that affect them from legislation to policymaking as well as family decisions that their views must always be considered.
“The Guild of Social Affairs Reporters is not an association of journalists either, is it a project, however, that it is an initiative that seeks to support media houses with the requisite resources to enhance their coverage of children and women,” he said.
Ebrima Sillah, Minister of Communication and Infrastructure, said his ministry is currently reviving the Information and Communication Act of 2009 to look at child phonograph issues in a robust manner.
Minister Sillah said effort to have the guild of reporters is commendable and that the government associates itself with the initiative. He said they are open for engagement to see that such activities have the necessary information needed to reach the targeted beneficiaries especially the children.
“The sitting up of the Guild of Social Affairs Reporters can’t be over emphasised, saying it has come at the right time,” he said.
Lamin Fatty, national coordinator for Child Protection Alliance (CPA), said the three days capacity building for the Guild of Social Affairs Reporters is aimed at strengthening the media in terms of its engagement when it comes to dealing with the issues of children and women.
“We have seen the media developing some quiet interest in reporting on issues of women and children. However, most often, what we see is the negative side. We have always seen women and children been portrait as victim of circumstances or how society victimise them,” he said.
Mr. Fatty said they now want to have a shift and create a platform that would portray women and children as heroes in what they are doing. He said it is important to note that the reports the media give out about the issues affecting women and children create a perception as to how society precise these women and children.
Fatty said it is vital for journalists to report on the developmental aspect of women and children and complement each other by bringing out better stories on women and children of this country.
Harriet Bass, child officer representing the Ministry of Gender, Children and Women’s Affairs, said ethical reporting on women and children issues remains a challenge in the country, saying children and women rights are often violated in the mainstream media both traditional and digital.
“Improving in reporting and professionalism in dealing with the most disadvantages and vulnerable children are needed to strengthening the media contribution in influencing public opinion and nurturing child friendly social norms and values.
“As Guild is designed on building more focus on women and children matters, this means correspondents are expected to pursue stories beyond the surface in order to bring out the underlining issues. When the real issues are brought to the core, public opinion will be showing in favour of the plight of women and children and also inspire actions from decision makers and partners,” she said.
Madam Bass said journalists also need to celebrate children by acknowledging the work they do which will go a long way towards encouraging them to do more and inspire others. She said they will collaborate with partners to ensure extensive reporting on women and children.