By Aja Musu Bah-Daffeh
Journalists held World Press Freedom-Day Symposium on Wednesday 3rd May, 2017 at the UTG Faculty of Law main hall, MDI road,
According to UNESCO every year, May 3rd is a date which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
3 May was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Critical minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and Inclusive societies.’ The symposium was organized by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) supported by UNDEF FUND and The Gambia –EU partnership.
Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MICI), Demba Ali Jawo noted that the priorities of the current government include national reconciliation, institutional reform and revamping of the economy and the importance of the media’s role.
However, he added that when it comes to national reconciliation, the powerful influence that the media often has on the society also makes it a double-edged sword which has the capability to make or break any society.
“In this country, we have been quite lucky that our journalists and media practitioners have always exercised responsibility in their handling of national issues and I have no doubt that we can depend on you to play your part in the process of national reconciliation,” said Minister Jawo.
He assured that PURA has already started evaluating various types of media applications and it is just a matter of time before private television becomes a reality in this country.
Minister Jawo promised that the government is in the process of setting up a Truth and Conciliation Commission, therefore he assured that there would not be any blank amnesty for those who bear greater responsibility for the atrocities committed against the people.
E.U Ambassador H.E Attila Lajos acknowledged that Press Freedom is not just about human rights; it’s also good business. He said members of the media must do their part and respect the important public trust they hold and the responsibility their work entails.
He added that media can be an irritant to governments around the world, but it is not their enemy. “Democratic government is supposed to be accountable to the people who voted it into power, and a free press informs voters about what is happening so that they can say to their elected leaders,” said E.U Ambassador. He quoted from Walter Cronkite, the iconic American broadcast journalist “freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy’’.
Mr. Lajos asserted that Journalism involves sources, facts and verification. He said when journalists and editors ignore their responsibility to verify their stories and report accurately, they undermine the integrity of their profession and the trust that people place in them.
Lars Moller, Representing the Gambia Media Support (GAMES) said press freedom is ‘big day for celebration’ noting that the challenge is how we use the new gained press freedom. He added that with the new gained press freedom should be used for informing and educating people.
He also said it can be used to set the agenda of the readers; explore new ways and new solution. He added that it can be used in monitoring debates, to monitor the powers of a state, business powers and economic powers.
Mr. Moller stated that the challenge now is to build capacities for responsible and professional journalism noting that it is important for the media to safeguard press freedom and democracy. He said there is a lot to do to build professionalism.