On this special day, may I begin by thanking the Almighty Allah for bringing to an ultimate end a vicious tyranny that systematically executed a reign of terror and horror throughout the ebbs and flows of journalism practice in this country. For without HIS intervention, we would have strived for extrication but in vain.
The focus of this paper which is “Promoting Responsible Journalism in New Gambia” cannot be more appropriate under the circumstances, considering the history of journalism in this country especially within the last 22 years. But first it is prudent to understand issues that underpin the concept of Responsible Journalism.
Journalism in itself implies “the processes of acquiring, packaging and delivering different forms of News through periodic or daily print publications and broadcast news media with a view to Informing, Educating as well as entertaining the audience. If these are the cornerstones of journalism, then responsible journalism would mean utilizing the ethics, professional codes of conduct as well as wise judgement in implementing journalism within the confines of the Law.
We are all aware of the fact that every media house is established on a creed, ideology or agenda that they stand to promote or protect. And sometimes journalists are compelled to further the course of their hegemony in order to continue practicing. Also states and governments do harbor some interest in the media; either because they need it to propel their propaganda, or fear being criticized or even censors them to cast gloom and mystery in the minds of men.
Am sure you are all alive to the realities of the past regime which even went a step further in blocking people’s Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and shamefully listening and recording people’s private mobile conversation. Some journalists supported them and had a choice, some connived with them and had a choice, and others condemned them and had a choice while other also fought them and had a choice. Sadly the fainthearted decided to abandon the serious business of news to focus on the less heated areas like entertainment.
However regardless of whatever circumstances, responsible journalism is about:
v Holding people’s representatives to task;
v Using facts as the basis of your work, not truth;
v Avoiding assumptions in our writings;
v Measuring the relevance of your story
v Being conscious of privacy issues especially (a) the privacy of sources and (b) the privacy of victims;
v Being conscious of your personal security and finally;
v Putting the greater good above everything. Any story that will strike discord and misunderstanding in society is not worth publishing;
There is a proverb in Mandinka which says “The Truth that stands between a people and their disaster is a forbidden truth”. This is because responsibility goes beyond journalism. Responsibility professes one’s level of integrity as a person, and the values and principles they stand for and uphold.
It entails the use of our intuitive and cognitive faculties to analyze and measure one’s actions and how they impact positively or negatively on oneself and society. Importantly, it creates a sense of altruism in men to proffer as their natural instinct, the instinct to do good, and to perceive the common good as supersediary to all others.
Learning to possess these characteristics and upholding them is Sine-qua-non to everyone across time and space. However for journalist of this country, upholding the principles of responsibility in New Gambia is more crucial than any life-support initiative this government needs as well as her people. From the Scramble for Africa in 1884 when this continent was apportioned to this day, this land has never been so divided.
The previous regime left in its wake trails of devastated social structures, raucous tribal division, licentious financial misappropriation and a terribly muzzled public. These have and continue to cost this nation so dearly and collectively, constitute the catharsis of the Gambian people that triggered the birth of New Gambia.
Such to relate, any neglect of, or compromise of responsibility is potent enough to set this country ablaze. When we ignore and overlook these pious ethics and tenets of responsible journalism in the way we inform, educate and entertain, we become a lethal weapon capable of throwing this country into a pernicious quagmire, where civil and tribal unrest, destruction of social order, weakening security and criminality will be the order of the day. These vices will not spare any one of us, equally they will not spare our women and children. It is important to know therefore that even within the context of religion, irresponsible journalism or journalism that awakens fitnat or commotion is criminal.
The Holy prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in an authentic hadith that “Al-Fitnat naem, la’ana Allah man aikadha ha” which means that commotion is sleeping, and Allah’s curse befalls anyone who awakens it. This hadith is further reinforced by a Qu’ranic injunction in Surah Anfaal 8 Vs: 25 where Allah the Exalted said: “Itaku Fitnat, Laa tusibanna Ladhina zalamu minhum Khaasa” which implies “Be wary of Fitnah, for its woes and ramifications are not limited to those who wrong amongst you alone”.
There is no shortage of attempts by experts and technocrats in unravelling ideas and developmental programs that this government seeks to embark on or lost sight of. At this juncture, our job as journalists would be more meaningful by focusing on issues that ameliorate the socio-economic status of our people by taking government as well as the private sector to task on issues of genuine concern to citizens. To report on issues that engenders national development than personal or individual interests. This way, our legacy will not be that of the name seekers or the bad boy journalist. Rather our professionalism, patriotism and national sacrifice will be celebrated.
Finally, let it be known that it is our collective responsibility to see justice and righteous prevail; and all of us have a stake to ensure amongst one another and towards our state, that peace and harmony triumph. The legendary Haile Salasi I said “It has been the inaction of those who should have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that have made it possible for evil to triumph”.
Viva to Responsible Journalism in New Gambia
Viva to Peace and Harmony in New Gambia
I thank you for your kind attention
This was delivered at the ninth year anniversary of Young Journalists’ Association of The Gambia on the 26th may, 2017.
Abubakar Darbo is a Human Resources Specialist, An Associate of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), a HR Consultant and a Seasoned Broadcast Journalist He earned his BSc. in Political Science and International Studies from the University of the Gambia and MA (Merit) in Human Resource Management from the prestigious Coventry University in the UK. He currently serves as Administrative Manager at the Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is a motivational speaker and has won much recognition including the national MRG award. Mr. Darbo could be reached on [email protected]