By Kemi Busari
Ahead of the December 4 presidential election, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) has trained 40 young community leaders in The Gambia on media and information literacy.
The three-day training, supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), was held at the Senegambia Beach Hotel from November 29 to December 1.
Welcoming the participants, drawn from youth-centric Civil Society Organisations (CSO), the Acting Executive Director of PTCIJ, Tobi Oluwatola, harped on the importance of media and information literacy in The Gambia’s bid to nurture its infant democracy.
“As The Gambia prepares for its first post-Jammeh general elections seeking to consolidate the country’s nascent democracy, there is a need to enable media users to access and use information prudently. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is a prerequisite for democratic participation, and preserving freedom of expression,” he said.
The training featured sessions on democracy and information literacy, freedom of information and expression, fact-checking and verification, internet opportunities and challenges among others.
At different times, participants were also engaged in group assignments to measure their understanding of the sessions and evaluate plans for propagating knowledge gained.
Ajie Sonko, the president of The Gambian Ladies Organisation, said the training sessions helped her understand the information ecosystem.
“I have been doing a lot in these sessions we had,” she said. “I have come to know things I never knew. I learnt things like types of information disorder…malinformation, disinformation and misinformation. I think this is very crucial in our environment because information is advancing the world and when there is information disorder in any country, there is no way the country will go forward.”
Ms Sonko promised to propagate what she learnt to members of her organisation and others.
“When I go, I’m not going to be selfish and keep what I learnt to myself, I will make sure I teach my organisation members what I learnt and not only them, but I will also do as much as I can to share with my immediate society. Whenever my organisation go on rural outreaches, I’ll make sure we teach people on media and information literacy,” she said.
Similarly, Joe Bongay, the executive director of Young Volunteers for the Environment said he has learnt a lot from the sessions.
“For the past three days, we’ve gotten very good knowledge on fact-checking, how to identify fake news…which is very important for my organisation and in the process of our development work. Gambia is still transforming gradually, and I think this training is timely. It will help to engage young people in the democratisation of The Gambia which is still young. Democracy is still not well understood by many people, this kind of training will help us filter the issue of democracy through communication to the local people and local development partners so as to collectively understand it, respect it and apply it which will help us develop as a nation,” he said.
The Gambia, the smallest country on the African mainland, will on Saturday go to the polls to elect a president. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has cleared six candidates for the election, the first since dictator Yahya Jammeh fled the country in 2017.