By Olimatou Coker
& Samsideen Ceesay
Baboucarr Ceesay, the Editor-in-Chief, The Monitor Newspaper has said that democracy and media are indivisible in a modern society, adding that free press is the oxygen of a society since the two cannot survive without each other.
He added that the role of media in a democratic society is to check those in power, explaining that people in position enjoy every privilege to steer the affairs of the society which should not go unchecked.
Mr. Ceesay made these remarks on Saturday, during the democracy dialogue forum organised by the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) Gambia Chapter in collaboration with the Network of Freelance Journalists (NFJ) The Gambia.
The dialogue was under the theme: Re imagining Democracy – How Should Democracy Work for Gambia. It was intended to encourage all participants (speakers and audience) into direct and frank discussions on the state of democracy in The Gambia.
The programme which gathered civil society organisations, youth activists, and journalists amongst others was held at the Tango conference hall, along Bertil Harding Highway.
Mr. Ceesay further said that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S. has emphasised the significance of the media by writing in 1787 that he prefers a newspaper without a government than a government without a newspaper, noting that it is indisputable that the media played a very significant role in ending the 22 years of dictatorship in The Gambia in 2016 by informing the public about the gross human rights violations amongst other undemocratic acts.
“In doing so, the people were able to define the kind of government in place and they made their decision. There is no doubt that the media can play a greater role in strengthening the new democracy we have today,” he said.
With the help of technology, he said anyone can write information and disseminate it to the people as largely as any other big media organisation, adding that this should not mean that any information gained from the internet is reliable. He said this has blown the identity of journalists in the country.
Representing the CDS, Colonel Musa Trawally who spoke on Democracy and Security said that it is a fact that Democracy and Security are inextricably linked and thus the absence of one undermines the other. He added that as the future lies in the hands of the youthful population, it is particularly appropriate that they have taken the giant and bold step in asking themselves relevant questions on issues pertaining to the new democratic dispensation.
It is true that democracy is about the people, by the people and for the people. The armed and security services are important pillars in the defence of a free society and of its civil liberties and basic values, he said.
He noted that citizens are entitled to feel secure and protected in their daily lives, adding that the past decade had seen growing recognition of the marked impact that crimes, conflict and violence have on democracy and development throughout the world.
He noted that many countries are confronted with severe security challenges of organised crime, such as macro-trafficking and kidnapping, corruption, juvenile crime, youth gangs amongst others, explaining that crime, violence and conflict show fears and anxiety about personal security which hinders economic development by making areas unattractive for investment.
Siaka Bah, lecturer at the UTG who also works for Central Bank of The Gambia spoke on Democracy and the State of the Economy, saying that The Gambia is an agrarian economy because three quarter of the population depends on the sector for its livelihood.
Agriculture provides one third of the country’s GDP, making the country largely relying on rainfall, he said. He added that the agriculture sector has untapped potential as less than half of the arable land is cultivated and agriculture productivity is very low.
Modou S. Joof, secretary general of GYIN, said that the institutions, laws and system left by the country’s previous ruler are still in and are hampering progress towards building a truly democratic society.
It is meant to point out what aspects of democracy have failed to work or are failing to work to give Gambians the democratic governance system that they yearn for, he said.