By Makutu Manneh
Sang Mendy, the managing director of Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC), has hinted that The Gambia risks sliding back to the regime of former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, if the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are not strengthened in the new found democracy.
The Gambia media under the reign of Jammeh, now in exile in Equatorial Guinea, was stifled and access to information was hard to come by.
Mr. Mendy, who was speaking on Wednesday at the launching ceremony of his academy’s communications training project, said it is evident that consolidating the new found democracy would not be easy because the public need access to timely and reliable information.
“Know it or not, The Gambia risks sliding back to the situation where people in power undermine the gains we have made by trying to suppress information. They said an ill-informed society is a society that is easy to manipulate and we don’t want to have societies like that,” he said.
Mendy, who is also the project manager of Empowering Civil Society Advocacy (ECSA), said in a bid to consolidate the new found democracy, his-led academy and partners came up with the project to build the capacity of community based organizations and civil society organizations to go out there and better inform the citizens.
“To avoid sliding back to the Jammeh days, the key pillars for a vibrant democracy which is of course civil society organizations, community based organizations and the media need to be strengthened,” he said.
Speaking further, MAJaC’s boss said a strong mobilization paced the process of the dawn of the new regime that led to the demise of Jammeh’s 22-year-rule.
He added that the civil society organizations or community based organizations and media were very central in the success of that process.
“Citizens, civil society organizations and the media have for decades lived in an environment where access to information was largely top-down and one way and it makes time and effort to get use to the new way. We’ve changed a system, but it is going to take a long time where other countries are, because 22 years of no access to information and decisions being taken just from top to bottom, for us to really change that it requires changing the mindset. To move on as a country, citizens must be given a voice,” he said.
The journalism trainer said the youth, women and people residing in the rural area must be given a voice. And to him, the people who should give the aforementioned people a voice are the media and the CSOs or the community based organizations.
By large, Mr. Mendy said the project aims to consolidate the Gambia’s fragile democracy. Thus, he urged the media and CSOs to focus on their proactive role of giving voice to the voiceless.