Muhammed MS Bah, President Gambia Press Union
By Ramatoulie Jawo
The Gambia Press Union (GPU), Media Council of The Gambia (MCG), and Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC) on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, organized a day-long safety forum to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
The event was held under the overarching theme of “Strengthening Safety & Professional Conduct of Journalists & Media Houses.”In his opening remarks, GPU President Muhammed S. Bah said that The Gambia has made significant progress in press freedom and freedom of expression in recent years. He noted that the country saw a 35-point improvement in its ranking on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, moving from 85th place in 2021 to 50th place in 2022. He also revealed that The Gambia has moved up another six places in the 2023 Index, ranking 46th out of 180 countries.
“The Gambia Press Union (GPU) therefore reiterates its call on the Gambia government, especially the executive and the legislature, to expedite the process of media law reforms. Proposed media law reforms promised 6 years ago have yet to be realized. Though some media laws found in the Criminal Code have not been replicated in the Criminal Offences Bill, 2022. There are still some problematic sections like false publication and broadcasting that are replicated,” he said.
Mr. Bah, said these laws have been recommended to be repealed by the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which the government has accepted in its white paper.
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Mr. Bah further urged all political parties, their leaders and followers, to refrain from both physical and verbal attacks on journalists, and from any act of intimidation toward journalists.
The Executive Secretary of the Media Council, Bai Emily Touray, said the theme for discussion is apt and timely as it comes at a time when the media industry in The Gambia is beleaguered by a lot of unethical practices.
“Unethical journalism is currently the greatest threat to media freedom in The Gambia. The post-Yahya Jammeh era has paved the way for the establishment of media houses across the country, but this has come with a price as most media practitioners do not stick to ethical guidelines. This is evident in the rape trial of Bob Keita where some media houses provided a platform for angry people to disparage and degrade prosecutors and the complainant. It is our view that unethical practice by Journalists is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Mr Touray added that Journalists are professionals, who are expected to discharge their duties responsibly and professionally.
‘It is important for Journalists and Media Practitioners to not see the council as a busy body or an organization that is set to bring their reputation into disrepute. It takes strength and humility to accept one’s mistake. To err is human, but to err and refuse to show remorse is inhumane. Arrogant people struggle to apologize even if they know they have committed blunders,” he said.
He further encouraged GPU to continue engaging Media Managers on the collective bargaining agreement as it seeks to enhance the welfare of journalists.
“Journalists, who receive pittance or starvation wages, are more vulnerable to unethical practices than those that are highly motivated by their employers,” he stated.
WPFD is observed every year on the 3rd of May to raise awareness of the importance of the freedom of the press and to also serve as a reminder to governments to respect their duty and uphold the right to freedom of expression and prevent attacks on the media’s independence.