By Ndey Sowe
Kathryn Edwards, Public Affairs Officer of US Embassy in Banjul has on Wednesday 31st July 2019; said press freedom is a key component of democratic governance.
He said by fostering a free press, citizens are more informed, active and engaged in political decision- making, and can better hold their governments accountable.
She made these remarks during the graduation of twenty- four (24) young Gambian journalists from the Insight Training Center (ITC) while speaking on behalf of Ambassador Richard Carl Paschall.
The 24 journalists were trained in 12 weeks, and each was certified at the end of the course. The project is a three year Media Training Cycle, sponsored by the US Embassy.
“We recognize that many journalists and media members dedicate their lives, often at great risk”, she said.
“We honor the many journalists and media professionals who have dedicated their lives to the profession”, she added the United States will continue to advocate for journalist’s ability to do their work.
She remarked, “We renew our steadfast commitment to promoting a free and independent press and advocating for accountability against those who commit violence or other abuses against journalists.”
She said journalists have an important role to play, a civic duty to inform and empower the people, to champion truth and fight false narratives. She further stated all democracies need responsible reporting.
“Journalists have a responsibility to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and a duty to apologize and correct a story that was incorrectly reported”, she said, adding that this builds trust in not just in the journalist but the institution of the press.
She urged the trained journalists to continue to prioritize professional development. She added, “Without the requisite training, you will not be able to accomplish your crucial task of being a watchdog to the society.”
“If you fail to accomplish this task, the Gambia’s democracy will be impaired”, she advised.
“We need you to be speaking truth to power, share information that people want to hear, and pointing out shortcomings that people may not want to see.” She pointed out.
She urged journalists to take a moment of reflection on how one young reporter’s work changed the lives of the mentally ill forever, she continued, that journalists should reflect on their vital role and think about how their work will contribute to shaping the Gambia’s democracy.
“I would like to reaffirm that the United States Government will do it can to support the Gambia’s young democracy, including strengthening of the media”, adding a free and functioning media can and should be the biggest ally of any nation.