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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Government has to rethink communication strategy

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By Musa Bah

Effective communication is said to be one of the most important components of governance. In fact, a good communication strategy can make a government appear to be doing far more than it is actually doing. It can present a government as having great achievements when in fact it’s not doing much. Any government that wants to succeed therefore must have a very good and effective communication strategy.
The Barrow government however, is having serious problems with communication. We observe repeatedly how this government does blunders in the area of communicating with the people. When something happens, we often hear the press secretary at Office of the President, Amie Bojang-Sissoho, muddy the waters more in interviews.

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For instance, when government appointed a spokesperson, it was announced on Gambia Radio and Television Services and carried by some of the newspapers in the country. Almost a week later, Mrs Bojang-Sissoho denied knowledge of the appointment in her weekly press briefings. People wondered how the president can appoint someone and his press secretary is not aware. This was later clarified by the Minister of Information on national television.

Having appointed a government spokesperson in the person of Ebrima Sankareh, one would have thought that it will transform the way that government communicates with the people. However, since his appointment, Mr Sankareh has issued two press releases which raised more questions than they answered.
The first one was in response to leaked audios of former president Yahya Jammeh and his lieutenants here in the country. This was a completely unnecessary response as it just went into a diatribe against the APRC party which can even widen the gap between that party and the rest of the country. It would have sufficed to notify the international community of this and ignore the rest.

The second one – released earlier this week – was full of misinformation and deceit. Mr Sankareh failed to get the facts right and tried instead to window dress the issue of President Barrow announcing that he will construct 60 mosques every year. He tried to pin that down on the Barrow Youth Movement which was not actually what happened.

I had an argument with an American lady last year when she said that it is the press that is tarnishing the reputation of Donald Trump. I said that instead, it was Donald Trump who was tarnishing the image of Donald Trump with his tweets and in other engagements with the media. Similarly, if Mr Sankareh really wishes to portray President Barrow and his government in a good light, he should advise President Barrow to be more measured when he speaks.

You see, now we live in the age of technology. Everything is recorded and stored away in the clouds, as it were. People can always bring out a statement said, or an image taken, any time. So, it is necessary that whatever one is saying, one needs to think twice before uttering any statement.
President Adama Barrow needs to measure his statements more carefully and weigh the pronouncements to avoid confusion. Otherwise, people will keep on misunderstanding, misquoting or misrepresenting him due to the obfuscation in his pronouncements.
All in all, the government must rethink its communications strategy to ensure that effective communication with the public is forthcoming.

 

Musa Bah who writes under the pen name Tha Scribbler Bah, is a published author and teacher of English Language at Nusrat Senior Secondary School, Bundung.

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