By Rohey Jadama
The Gambia Press Union with funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund, (UNDEF), organized a training of trainers’ workshop on Freedom of Expression yesterday, 20 June at a local hotel in the Senegambia area.
The training targeted editors, senior journalists, head of civil society organizations and activists.
Deputizing for the Minister of information and officially opening the training, Mr. Malick Jones, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, said the right to free speech is one of the most precious rights an individual can have.
“In the Gambia section 25 of the 1997 constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, assembly and movement. This right gives people the right to speak their mind and give their opinion of what they think should happen. These rights have been questioned and exercised throughout history and have produced extremely positive things in a lot of cases worldwide,” Mr. Jones said.
Mr. Saikou Jammeh, the Secretary General of the Gambia Press Union, said the project is to help promote an enabling environment for freedom of expression in the Gambia, and the specific objective the project is seeking, is to see how best they can, together with partners and with the guidance of the ministry, do legal reforms.
“The laws that are in the country, a whole of them are quiet not conducive for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. You cannot reform the laws without creating a way around what you want to do. You cannot just reform without sensitizing the people because when you reform the law it is the people that are going to benefit from those reforms. So that is why we want to put people at the center of everything that we are going to do”, said the GPU SG.
He said the GPU after this training programme, will have a series of training programme for a wide range of stakeholders which will include students, youths, lawyers, National Assembly members, government officials, civil society and security.
According to Mr. Jammeh, the campaign for legal reforms and freedom of expression in the Gambia, is not something for the GPU, but rather they are just facilitating it. He said it is not just for the ministry of information or Mr. Gaye Sowe’s office, but that it is for Gambians and the Gambian people.
He continued: “That is why at the end of the day, what we want to do is when we have all these sensitization programmes, we want to set up a national freedom of expression committee that will comprise all the stakeholders that have benefitted from this programme and they will take the campaign and move on with it. May be they will do some advocacy and lobbying so that it would not be seen as a GPU and ministry of information property, but would be seen as a Gambian and National property that involves everyone.”
The Executive Director of Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, who also doubles as the lead trainer, Mr. Gaye Sowe, said he will be presenting on freedom of expression under the Gambian law and particularly our international obligations.