#FreePress for a #NewGambia: UNESCO and EU bring tools of the trade to media in The Gambia
Media professionals in the Gambia are now better equipped to provide information their communities need to build an informed society looking to the future. With a 691,583 euro grant from the European Union, UNESCO is building media capacity in the Gambia through providing equipment and developing journalism education and an enabling environment for freedom of expression and access to information.
“For peace to be lasting and development to be sustainable, human rights must be respected. Everyone must be free to seek, receive and impart knowledge and information on all platforms, online and offline. Quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society and their contribution to development. But in order to do so, tools – both intellectual and material - are necessary” underlined Gwang-Chol Chang, Director a.i. of the UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa (Sahel) in Dakar speaking on February 22nd at the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO, where a ceremony was held to deliver media equipment to beneficiary newspapers, the Gambia Press Union, and the University of the Gambia.
In the Gambia, as in many countries around the world, media professionals often lack the necessary resources and capacities to exercise their activities. Difficulty accessing information and lack of equipment and training are among the daily challenges faced by media professionals. This project is addressing some of these issues, namely professional development and training and the economic viability of media houses. The overall objective of this project, which will continue through June 2017, is to contribute to better democratic governance through improving freedom of the press and the quality of information available to the Gambian population.
“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of democracy” Ambassador Attila Lajos of the EU Delegation to the Gambia underlined. Fatou Kinneh-Jobe, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, underlined that the Gambia must take advantage of President Adama Barrow’s statement that the media, both public and private, must enjoy freedom to disseminate divergent views and dissenting opinions.
“As the New Gambia consolidates the new democracy, the onus is on you, the journalists, to ensure that the news you provide is credible and that it promotes peace, cohesion and development. I cannot overstate your responsibilities as peace and development agents. Let your pen and voice be your weapons of victory” emphasized Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Gambia, during the ceremony.
The delivery of equipment comes days after President Adama Barrow’s inauguration in Banjul on February 18th. This project promotes excellence in journalism in recognition that journalism education is an important part of developing a free and independent media. The project also reinforces gender equality in the media and the development of training curricula and materials. It also contributes to reinforce freedom of expression and access to information.
Primary beneficiaries of this project include media houses, newspapers, community radios, the Gambia Press Union, and the University of the Gambia. Through June 2017, capacity building initiatives will occur, as well as training of Gambian security forces on the safety of journalists and freedom of expression to support the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Furthermore, a formal platform for dialogue between media and the Government will be established in order to support the revision of existing regulatory frameworks concerning freedom of expression and access to information in order to align them with international human rights standards.
With longstanding experience in promoting excellence and training in journalism, UNESCO has been identified for the implementation of this project as the UN agency with the mandate to support the fields of communication, media, and journalism. “To further buttress the importance of Press Freedom, the New Gambia has stressed its unwavering desire to respect the fundamental principles of press freedom and respect to journalists who strive to uphold the ethics of their profession. UNESCO will maintain a strong partnership worldwide to uphold this ideal for a better and informed world” the UN Resident Coordinator in the Gambia confirmed. The project directly contributes to the achievement of 2030 Development Agenda’s goal (SDG 16) to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
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