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After UNESCO training, Gambian journalists vow to bar conflict-triggers in news reports

Gambian journalists have committed themselves to avoid biased, hate speech or anything that could trigger conflict to creep into their news or editorial content.

 

A total of 50 journalists from print, online and broadcast media have set themselves to high professional standards of fairness, objectivity and balance as a way of barring crime, violence, or civil disorder through their reporting.

 

The journalists made the commitment at the end of two series of three-day training on conflict sensitive journalism and countering hate speech, funded by UNESCO Dakar through a Peace Building Fund project entitled ‘Young Women and Men as Stakeholders in Ensuring Peaceful Democratic Processes and Advocates for the Prevention of Violence and Hate Speech’. 

 

The training was delivered by the International Press Centre to address real and potential challenges of conflict sensitive reporting in a fledgling democracy and partisan society like The Gambia. 

 

One of the participants, Alimatou S. Bajinka, freelance journalist, highlighted that the idea of conflict sensitive reporting was new to her before the training.

I can say I am very opportune to be part of this training because now I am able to identify issues that are potential conflict triggers, in other words I am now sensitive and alert to issues of conflict; This knowledge would help me to filter information in my day-to-day reporting.
Alimatou S. Bajinka, freelance journalist

Mustapha Ceesay, News Editor at Kerr Fatou online media, summarized the lesson he learned from the training: “My major take home from the training is that as journalists, we should put more focus on positive reporting or solution-seeking to enhance peacebuilding efforts rather than report on things that can aggravate a conflict situation.”

 

Mustapha advised against the use of words that could generate into conflict or those that could diminish people’s reputation.

 

For Banna Sabally of West Coast Radio, the training on conflict sensitive journalism also exposed her to issues such as hate speech, human rights, and the limitations of press freedom.

I had learned a lot particularly in areas of hate speech which I had little understanding of before now. From what I learned here, I could now say hate speech is a problem and the fact that everyone has smartphone with internet makes the spread so easy and fast;
Banna Sabally, West Coast Radio

However, Banna noted that she is now “prepared to block hate speech” or counter it promptly to ensure that people are well informed with the right information.

 

Also speaking on the occasion, Ms. Seraphine Wakana, UN Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, said the central concept of conflict sensitive reporting is that violent conflict attracts intense news media attention that requires greater analytical depth and skills to report on it without contributing to furthering violence or overlooking peace building opportunities.

 

She tasked journalists to report on conflict in a more insightful, comprehensive, balance, saying this is not only critical for avoiding the flaming of division or enticing of hatred in sensitive context but also for promoting understanding and tolerance necessary to positively influence conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Ebrima Sillah, Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, noted that the training on conflict sensitive journalism and countering hate speech for Gambian journalists could not have come at a better time than now when The Gambia is preparing for the National Assembly election. 

Assan Tangara, Permanent Secretary, Office of the President, noted that no matter how conducive the media environment is, if the practitioners do not have adequate capacity, the Gambia government media reform will come to nothing.

Thus there is the need to build the capacity of journalists in order to deliver news which is accurate and impartial. It is only through responsible journalism that we can avoid conflict and instability;
Assan Tangara, Permanent Secretary, Office of the President

The Peace Building Fund project through which the training was organized is aimed at addressing the institutional barriers (such as exclusion from decision making) for young people, to strengthen youth capacity for engagement and participation in governance and leadership, and to address hate speech and counter fake news and misinformation of young people through media and local community structures.

 

The training is designed to establish the foundations and imperatives of conflict-sensitive reporting and clarify the frameworks, tools, techniques, and steps of conflict sensitive journalism. It also addresses real and potential challenges of conflict sensitive reporting in a fledgling democracy and partisan society.