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GPU urges media owners to invest in safety and health of workers

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Press release

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) joins labour organisations and trade unions around the world to mark International Labour Day 2024.

This year’s theme for Labour Day is “ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate”. Therefore, the GPU calls on media owners and managers to make the health and safety of media workers a top priority by investing in initiatives that promotes better working conditions including on policies and material resources.

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As we mark this Day, we would like to reflect on some of the progress the GPU has made in recent years in terms of promoting the health and safety and the rights of media workers in The Gambia. Our safety initiatives, have resulted in more than 200 journalists and journalism students (including full-time staff, freelancers and women) trained on safety.

Safety of journalists & media houses

These trainings, conducted in collaboration with the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC) – our school of journalism, included a safety bootcamp which provided essential life skills and a survival guide to journalists. Several journalists have also been trained on safety in relation to covering public protests that might turn violent, and almost all major media houses benefitted from in-house safety trainings under GPU activities supported by the Civil Society Fund (CISU), the International Media Support (IMS) and our Danish partners, Gambia Media Support (GAMES). We also conducted a safety assessment of 20 media houses and made recommendation to improve safety in and outside of newsrooms.   

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We have also developed a safety mechanism that is waiting to be operationalised to be able to respond in real-time on attacks on journalists, as well as a safety toolbox, and conducted training of trainers on safety, training of media houses with plans to establish safety mechanisms in newsrooms across the country. 

Our “Assessment on the Safety of Media Houses in The Gambia” forms part of our broad objectives to enhance the safety of journalist and combating impunity for crimes against journalists in The Gambia.

Twenty media houses including newspapers, radio, television, and online media platforms were assessed on a number of key safety issues, including on the existence or lack of safety policies, safety structures, and safety training in newsrooms. 

The findings reveal a stark state of a lack of safety awareness in some quarters, and in other cases, a lack of capacity on the part of media houses to establish proper safety measures in newsrooms and for staff working in the field.

The report also comes with a host of recommendations that fit well within the wishes and aspirations of participating media houses to address safety issues concerning journalists and media workers in the country through a harmonized and multi-faceted approach.

Some of the recommendations includes proposals to conduct more in-house safety trainings for media houses, trainings on ethics, provision of safety equipment for journalists (all of which are continuously being implemented).

Other recommendations include having fire extinguishers, CCTV cameras, emergency exits, and first aid kits as part of their safety structures, and the establishment of in-house safety mechanisms (we encourage media houses to invest in these policy initiatives and material resources and are willing to support on an advisory role and where available with material resources).

“In order to change the precarious safety situation Gambian media workers are faced with, the GPU and its partners, GAMES, have in recent years adopted a more innovative approach to tackle the deep-rooted culture of violence against journalists and other media workers,” GPU President Muhammed S. Bah, said. 

“We undertook initiatives needed to ensure the safety of media workers by strengthening ongoing capacity development programmes and media safety dialogues with the security forces and political parties in order to safeguard the safety and health of journalists in the field.”

Some of these safety initiatives were supported by IFEX, the global network defending and promoting freedom of expression, and the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Foundation.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

Our CBA has been signed by six (6) media houses: Eye Africa TV, Choice FM, The Point Newspaper, The Fatu Network, Malagen, and Gainako Online. We commend these institutions for leading the way to improve working conditions in terms of remuneration and other employment benefits due to media workers.

“A positive effect is that each media house complies with one or more aspects of the CBA,” GPU Secretary General, Modou S. Joof, said. “Some of the employees and freelancers consulted in various media houses reported improvements regarding salaries and freelance payment.”

“Other media houses have a good compliance rate with the CBA in terms of salaries, social security payments, and health insurance or a practice of refunding expenses on health for sick staff,” Joof said.

“Despite this progress, a lot more needs to be done in terms of paying staff salaries and freelancers’ dues on time, and meeting other employment benefits. We encourage more media houses, especially the major ones like GRTS, QTV, Foroyaa, The Standard, West Coast Radio, Paradise FM/TV, Star FM/TV among others to commit to signing the CBA to improve working condition in the media sector.”

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