By Baba Sillah The European Union in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] wednesday handed over materials to various media houses in the country as part of a D35 Million media capacity building project in the Gambia, which was launched last October and will also involve training of journalists. Speaking at the handing over ceremony at the Unesco office in Banjul, Mr Gwang-Chol Chang, the director of Unesco regional office for West Africa and Sahel said he was delighted to witness the handing over ceremony of the items to the media which is part of the procedure in the framework of media capacity building initiative in The Gambia financed by the EU and implemented by Unesco. According to the Unesco regional boss, for peace to be lasting and development to be sustainable, human rights must be respected for everyone to be free to seek, receive and impart knowledge and information on all media, online and offline. Mr Chang reiterated that quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society and their contribution to development. “It also works to expose injustice, corruption and abuse of power. But in order to do so, tools –both intellectual and materials are necessary beyond the powerful pen, pencil and paper. In the republic of 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. With proper training, proper tools and an enabling regulatory framework and environment, journalists can work independently and without undue interference and conditions of safety,” Mr Chang observed. Mr Chang further noted that support will also be provided in the framework of this project to ensure a dialogue between the government and the media to evaluate and review existing regulatory frameworks related to the media, press freedom and freedom of expression in the country and align them with international human rights standards. “In addition, we plan to offer training in May for members of The Gambian security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in the framework on UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the Issue of Impunity, ensuring that security forces understand the vocation of journalists and their shared mission to ensure access to information to The Gambian public. Access to information is a fundamental freedom and part of the basic human right to freedom of expression. Receiving and imparting information, both offline and online, is a cornerstone of democracy, good governance and rule of law,” Mr Chang added. For his part, Attila Lajos the European Union ambassador to The Gambia is of the view that the project will address some of the issues namely professional development and training as well as provision of small-scale equipment to stakeholders. “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishment of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens. It is only such a free press that can temper the appetite of any government to amass power at the expense of the citizens. It is only such a free press that can be the vigilant watchdog of the public interest against the temptation on the part of those who wield it to abuse that power. It is only such a free press that can have the capacity to relentlessly expose excess and corruption on the part of government, state officials and other institutions that hold power in society,” said the EU ambassador while quoting former South African President and icon of Africa, Nelson Mandela on freedom of press. Mr Lajos is of the hope that this project will be extremely useful to support the democratic change in The Gambia as well as contribute to better democratic governance, through improving freedom of the press and the quality of information available. Others speakers included representatives from United Nations office in The Gambia, Ministry of Information, University School of Journalism and Gambia Press Union who reechoed similar sentiments and promised that the items will be utilized effectively to enhance the capacity of the media and journalists towards strengthen democracy and good governance in the country. The beneficiaries are: University of The Gambia School of Journalism and Digital Media, Foroyaa newspaper, The Standard newspaper, Voice newspaper, Gambia Press Union, The Point newspaper and The Daily Observer newspaper.]]>
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With Latirr Carr As I debated with myself on what to write for my week's essay, I had a brief moment, where I looked out...
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