By Amie Sanneh
In the run up to December 1 Presidential poll, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has called on journalists to uphold professional standards and media ethics.
“Journalists are expected to report fairly on all candidates or parties whilst upholding professional standards and media ethics,” said IEC Chairman Alieu Momar Njie.
The IEC Chairman was speaking yesterday, 26 September, while opening a day long sensitization for the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on their respective roles and responsibilities during the electoral campaign. The training was held at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) hall.
He said the IEC is committed to promoting and conducting free and fair elections based on democratic principles and practices.
According to the IEC Chairman, election is often regarded as a complex process requiring the participation of a multitude of players such as election and government officials, local authorities, security officials, civil society and the media amongst others.
“Voter participation is greatly influenced by the quantity and quality of electoral information voters have been given access to. This makes the media a very important vehicle through which voters are given the opportunity to make informed choices,” he said.
The IEC Chairman noted that the freedom, responsibility and limitations of the media are guaranteed in the 1997 constitution of the Republic of the Gambia under sections 207, 208 and 209 respectively. He added that the IEC media rules on election reporting also provides some guidelines to journalists in helping them fulfill professional standards such as accuracy, impartiality and responsibility.
He expressed hope that the training will equip participants with the necessary tools in conforming to high professional standards in election reporting.
For the CSOs, the IEC Chairman stated that they play crucial role in citizen sensitization or awareness creation and conflict prevention. This training, he went on will also provide them with the desired tools to effectively execute their roles in contributing to the success of the electoral process. He therefore called on their participation in making the Presidential election a success.
Commissioner Isatou Jallow Ndure from the IEC described election as the business of all and everyone has a specific role to play. The media, according to her, has a crucial role to play in fostering and upholding democratic society.
Mrs. Jallow Ndure noted that the media can perform three fundamental functions throughout the electoral cycle, ”they can relay the message of political parties and candidates, they can monitor and supervise the electoral process and they provide voters with information about the candidates.”
Commissioner Jallow Ndure said they are looking forward to a free and fair election thus the need for IEC to sensitize stakeholders on the electoral process. In order for journalists to be able to offer credible information to the general public, they need adequate knowledge of electoral laws and processes, she said.
“Journalists also have the responsibility to give access to and report the activities of the EMPs, parties and candidates fairly and accurately,” she added.
Commissioner Jallow Ndure called on the media to at all times avoid publications which may incite violence or cause harm to political stability. She also urged the media to remain committed to providing professional, independent and factual coverage and promote positive public education and dialogue during the electoral period.
The IEC will also be conducting trainings for the political parties and members of the security today and tomorrow respectively at the NaNA Conference hall.