By: Aja Musu Bah Daffeh

A three days training workshop for journalists in the print and electronic media organized by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) ended yesterday, 27th October, 2016 at a local hotel in Bijilo.

In his presentation before the closing ceremony, Saikou Jammeh, the Secretary General of GPU, elaborated on the role of media in the election process. He said the press is not here to preserve a bad status quo. He said the person who wants to be a journalist must first ask himself or herself whether he or she has the interest, the values and the talents to become one and that if the person cannot satisfy these three conditions then he or she must not go for the profession.

Mr. Jammeh elaborated on the challenges that the media face in The Gambia in terms of freedom. “The fear factor in the media led many journalists to keep mute on political issues in The Gambia and that is why election programs are not been featured mostly in many outlets, especially in the electronic media,” said the GPU Secretary General.

He noted that political control over news content, limited access to information and sources, impunity, harassment and intimidation of journalists are challenges on media freedom in The Gambia.

The GPU Secretary General said journalists should enjoy maximum freedom of speech in order to exercise their rights in election coverage and reporting. He added that freedom of speech is guaranteed in chapter 4 of the Constitution of The Gambia and that journalists should really enjoy this right.

In his remarks during the closing, Mr. Sang Mendy, the acting Executive Director of GPU, who co-ordinates the training, stressed that election is everyone’s business whether or not the individual is involved in party politics.

“I heard people say that they are not politicians yet they are concern about the high price of commodities in the market; concern about the challenges in the country; talk about the political situation and these are the very people who go to the various polling stations to cast their votes,” he said.

Mr. Mendy urged the trained journalists to go back to their various managers and present project proposals on election programs at their respective radio stations and newspapers to sensitise the general public on the election issues.

He assured that the GPU will continue to do its level best in ensuring that journalists are capacitise through such trainings, He said journalists should be courageous and to know that there are challenges in the job which need to be overcome to ensure their contribution  towards the nation’s development.

In his closing statement, Mr Malick Jones, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MoICI), said after the training he is looking forward to seeing journalists live up to expectation by sensitizing the public.

He thanked GPU for taking the giant responsibility and step to hold the workshop and also to the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) for sponsoring the program.

“Journalists are the crucial individuals in the election process because they are the ones that the nation relies on during the pre-election, election and post-election because they are the information givers. So in that case, journalists should take their job seriously and they should learn to be political journalists,” said Mr. Jones.

The communication ministry DPS concluded by applauding the print media for doing very well in providing coverage of issues and events at all times.