By Ndey Sowe
A justice of the Gambia Court of Appeal said one of the ways the media could take to discharge their peace building role and ensure peaceful elections, is to ensure reporters are fluent in their language of choice and avoid inflammatory, divisive, culturally insensitive and dehumanizing language when reporting on issues.
Justice Haddy Roche, who was representing the office of the Chief Justice at a training on the ‘Role of the media in peaceful elections in the Gambia’ organized by Mai Mediawith funding fromthe Peace and Security Center of Competence, Sub-Saharan Africa Office, said the media needs to strengthen the professional capacity of journalists and reporters.
Justice Roche said information and education provided by the media is a catalyst for political participation and free expression, without which conflict can occur.
The training, which was held at NaNA, Bakau from the 23rd to 25th of August, 2021, targeted journalists from broadcasting stations, including rural community radios, the print, TV and the online media.
It utilizes expert knowledge in human rights, free expression. It also utilizes the knowledge of veteran journalists, who witnessed the past presidential elections to share experiences with the participants and guide current practicing journalists on how to play proactive roles in ensuring peaceful elections in December, 2021.
Sanna Camara, Managing Director of Mai Media, a local communications agency, said in an interview with this reporter that the media is at all times a peace builder and its primary function is to inform, educate and raise awareness so that better decisions and actions can be taken for peaceful co-existence.
“At election times, the media guard against the misinformation and brainwashing of voters by educating voters about the candidates and their manifestos, and about the electoral process in general, which helps voters develop the necessary political awareness to make informed choices,” he advised the participants.
Cherno Jallow, a veteran journalist who served as the Chairperson of the occasion, emphasized that the media has a crucial and constitutional role to play.
“As watchdogs, we are also the guardians of the constitution and the constitution mandated us to hold the whole government and all office holders responsible and accountable to the Gambian people,” he remarked.
Jallow said as members of the fourth estate, journalists are supposed to cover all activities, if possible, of politicians and politics ahead of the elections with one proviso- report without fear or favour, affection or ill will. He advised journalists not to be spokespersons of any political party.
Muhammed S Bah, Vice President of Gambia Press Union (GPU), said the role journalists play in elections is key.
“We have to understand that election is a fundamental right for citizens to decide who to govern their country,” Bah said.
Bah said sovereignty, as stated in the constitution lies in the hands of people from whom all organs of government derive their authority. He thus implored all journalists to engage the GPU and have the Cherno Jallow Code of Ethics- which is the latest one- and use it as a guiding tool.