Hon Bojang has a colossal responsibility in ensuring proper regulations, for a more press-friendly environment for the print and electronic media; the internet, telecommunications and information technology infrastructure, among others.
The Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure( MoICI) is a sensitive office and, therefore, should be handled with care. We hope that the new minister, being a product of the Gambian media, will do his utmost best in taking the entire communications industry forward.
As I write this editorial, the frequencies of various local radio stations often jam, with weak signals making reception extremely difficult in many parts of the provincial parts of the country, including some parts of Foni, such as Bondali district.This has indeed made it very difficult for many people to tune in on radio stations who are automatically deprived of their right to access information they deserve to receive.
I am of the view that the operations of the national radio and television services, GRTS, should be reviewed, to serve the public interest, by being more objective in passing information to the public. Its sub-station in Basse needs to be upgraded in order to better inform and educate people in that part of the country.
Press regulation is crucial in national development and, therefore, media laws should be geared towards serving the public interest, but not as an obstacle to press freedom.We acknowledge the new developments in media-government relations, as seen in the accreditation by the National Training Authority of the School of Journalism set up by the Gambia Press Union (GPU), which has a diploma in journalism training programme, which is up and running at the union’s secretariat.
The government also responded to the call of the national press by introducing journalism education at the University of The Gambia in September 2014.The four-year degree programme is ongoing.The positive developments also pose challenges to local journalists to make good use of the opportunities available in the area of journalism education, to understand their role and responsibilities in ensuring a well-informed society, as well as promoting peace, unity, mutual understanding and development through information dissemination.
Therefore, appointing a private newspaper publisher as Minister responsible for communications is an additional positive development in efforts to improve media-government relations.
The media should not be seen as enemies of the state, or bad elements of society, but as partners in development.Underestimating their value in societal development may obstruct the country’s development programmes, because most journalists are also loyal citizens, with development aspirations.
Gambians must take ownership of the media. The role of the minister in promoting better public understanding of the importance of the media is key to maintaining the press-friendly environment and peaceful relationships.
Closer collaboration between the media, the information ministry and other relevant partners will play a key role in creating a more vibrant media environment for development.
I take this opportunity to wish the new Information Minister success in his work in the best interest of The Gambia and Gambian people.
Saikou Ceesay is the Managing editor of Gambia Affairs online newspaper]]>