Gambia’s information minister, Demba Jawo, has argued that the fight against violent extremism in the region will remain a dream if the members of the Fourth Estate are not equipped enough to report on the rising phenomenon.
Jawo was speaking yesterday in Dakar at the opening of a regional seminar on ‘The role of journalists and the media in preventing violence and violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel.’
“In the era of social networks, everyone can claim to be a journalist without prior training. The terrorist can use this platform to get their messages across. The journalist himself may be the victim of indoctrination. This was the case of Rwanda before the genocide,” Jawo said.
“This is why good training of journalists is required. The journalist must be able to analyze the messages to remove the propaganda words. Freedom of expression is an inalienable right, but we must not abuse it to fall into propaganda.”
The three-day seminar was organized by the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of Switzerland.
Continuing his remarks, Jawo said the world is facing an unprecedented propagation of violence.
“As journalists, we must bear in mind that the public interest is paramount,” he said, insisting on the need to work toward the pacification of the public space by refraining from resorting to the language of violence.”
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the special representative of the UN Secretary General and head of the UNOWAS, said the media and journalists must make a vital contribution to the fight against violent extremism.
Gwang-Chol Chang, the director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, said violent extremism can be prevented since it is not innate, but inculcated by man to man.
In this regard, he stressed the importance of prevention policies based on human rights awareness through creating a network of community radio stations capable of contributing to public awareness.
“Media and journalists can influence all actors in the fight against violent extremism. Whatever the medium at their disposal, journalists can also play a big role in preventing violent extremism,” said Dagmar Schmidt Tartagli, Ambassador of Switzerland to Senegal.
The seminar’s main goal is to help improve the capacity of journalists and the media to better contribute to the prevention of violence, including violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel.
It brings together some 30 journalists and experts from countries in West Africa and the Sahel.