The United Nations General Assembly has set aside 3rd May as the World Press Freedom Day. It is universally recognized, celebrated and reflected upon to set in motion the continuing obligations of nation states to provide enabling environment for the vibrancy of the press. It is a day to commemorate the successes and milestones achieved by journalists in the course of informing, educating and empowering the citizenry to understand civic responsibilities in the ordinary course of holding government accountable. Equally, the day provides an opportunity to reflect upon the endurances and sacrifices of journalists and hostile environments that continue to limit productivity and socioeconomic contributions of the press in the struggle to establish an equitable context for human development. The World Press Freedom Day is an incontrovertible reminder for nations state to ratify global conventions and instruments created to ensure unwavering commitment and institution of response mechanisms for press freedom.
At the continental level, Aspiration three (3) of the African Union Agenda 2063 clearly stipulates the need to promote and protect responsible press through legislative and other state response actions. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.1 provides solid grounds for nation states to adopt responsible and responsive legal frameworks and instruments to guarantee the vibrancy of press and universal access to information. These two instruments place binding obligations on member states to respect, adopt and deliver the entrenched values underlying the universal access to information.
At the local level, the dynamic leadership style adopted by His Excellency President Adama Barrow since the advent of his administration in 2017 continue to seek symbiotic collaborations with all actors and players in the information value chain with a view to expand democratic horizon and freedom of expression. The political leadership understood the human right context conveyed through access to information. Information is fundamental to democratic pluralism and constitute the right to expression a critical component of fundamental human rights. Cognizant of the need to empower, protect and promote all actors and players in the media industry and in particular journalists, the Government of the Gambia ventured into an unprecedented collaboration with the Gambia Press Union and Civil Society Organizations to enact the Access to Information Act 2021. This piece of legislation symbolizes the unwavering commitment of the Government of the day to surgically advance its democratic credentials to embrace an open governance system.
The Government of the Gambia understands the unfortunate history of Journalism in The Gambia and is resolutely committed to the removal of the bad omen of dictatorship and its negative aspersions on the image of journalism in the Gambia through selective review, amendment and repeal of legal instruments that seek to anchor residual existence of an authoritarian regime in The Gambia. The Gambia Government provided €270, 000 grant to media houses partially to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring smooth operating conditions in the face of Covid-19 adversity. The governance component of the Green-Focused National Development Plan focuses on creating the enabling environment that safeguards the legitimate needs of all actors and players in the democratization process. My Ministry intends to establish a Key Stakeholder Consultative Forum (KSCF) comprising GPU, Ministries of Justice and Interior and a cross-section of CSOs to scientifically eliminate the limiting factors affecting the vibrancy of the press in The Gambia.
The efforts undertaken by the current democratic dispensation since its advent in
2017 are beginning to yield dividends. On the barometer of Press Freedom, Reporters Without Borders ranked The Gambia 5th in Africa and 27th in the World.
This is a significant milestone for which I would like to express special gratitude to His Excellency Adama Barrow for adopting a leadership style that made the context for these achievements. Furthermore, I would like to congratulate the government and the people of The Gambia, the Gambia Press Union, print and broadcast media outfits for their cooperation in the course of rebuilding trust and credibility essential for the formation of an enabling operating environment.
On a cautionary note, I would like all parties to champion ethical and responsible media practices to consolidate the gains as we agitate for the best position in the world.
Hon Lamin Queen Jammeh
Minister Of Information