By Amadou M Jadama
A three-day capacity building training for Gambian security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists has recently concluded.
Held at Djembe Hotel, the training was organised by ARTICLE19 West Africa in partnership with UNESCO with the support of the European Union.
The training was aimed at improving capacities of security forces in the Gambia to guarantee freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in the context of the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
In her closing remarks, Fatou Jagne Senghor, Regional Director ARTICLE 19 West Africa, said: “This activity aims to enable peace, sustainable development and democracy through promoting freedom of expression, freedom of press and fostering safety of journalists at the country level.
“The goal is to train security forces to uphold the freedom of expression rights of citizens to better understand the role and function of journalists in democratic societies and establish professional working relationship between the two groups.
“Security forces can play an enabling role in situations of political and institutional change toward democratic societies, post-conflict situation as well as countries experiencing high levels of violence or instability.”
Madam Senghor further pointed out: “In The Gambia, President Adama Barrow has centralized the importance of freedom of expression and access to information in democratic transition and good governance, and underlined the need to re-establish trust and working relationship between security forces and media professionals in the country.
“The project will foster cooperation between security forces and the media on issues related to security forces and media, in order to strengthen freedom of expression, the rule of law and mutual cooperation through continuous training and sharing good practices, with particular attention to communication using social media.”
Leszek Jereme Bialy, who spoke on behalf of UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa, explained that the training was held in the framework of the United Nations Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, endorsed by the United Nations Chief Executive Board in 2012 and coordinated by UNESCO.
“Indeed, promoting the safety of journalists and combating the impunity of those who attack them are central elements of UNESCO’s action to support press freedom across all media platforms.No matter where we come, the acquisition and transmission of knowledge are essential tasks for all those who are fighting for freedom of expression and the right to information,” he added.
According to him thus, defending freedom of expression and its corollaries throughout the world is one of UNESCO’s main missions. “The strengthening of local media makes a significant contribution to the efforts of peace-building, democracy, and good governance. However, journalists and media professionals face many obstacles in the exercise of their profession. The struggle is far from won, and we must persevere,” he concluded.
For her part, Mary Anne Ndiaye-Ajayi, who spoke on behalf of the participants, said over the years the Gambian media has been sidelined, mistreated and abused whiles the security personnel have been accused of so many excesses.
“But today this training has created faster ways to eradicate unprofessionalism in both the security and media fields.”
The certificates were awarded to the participants.