journalist trade union; Gambia Press Union (GPU), Friday launched a one year
project that will build a national consensus on access to information and
freedom of expression.
The 42,000-dollar, more than 2 million dalasis project funded is a grant provided by the National Endowment for Democracy.
It seeks to strengthen the knowledge and expertise of a wide range of local actors on issues of media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom to information.
The Union’s president Sheriff Bojang Jnr said access to information and freedom of expression is not restricted to only journalists, saying it is important because it enhances the right of citizens to access public information that is in state custody. “Through this project, we will do our best to strengthen the democratic space, the government accountability, probity and transparency in the country,” he said.
Madi Jobarteh, representative of the FOI Coalition said citizens should hold the government accountable in order to prevent abuse of office, violation of human rights and ensure that there is transparency, efficiency and responsiveness from the state.
He appealed to Gambians to join the GPU in advocating for the creation of freedom of information laws in the country to enhance popular participation. “We want the freedom of information law to be enacted before the end of this year because it is our right that empower us to check public officers whether they are abusing information that is in their custody for other purposes,” he said.
United States ambassador to The Gambia, Richard ‘Carl’ Paschall said a responsible press is vital to democracy.
He said it has a civic duty to inform and empower people to check the power of the government; not only the executive, but also the legislative and judicial branches of government by ensuring the people and the electorates are better informed about the successes and failures of their government. He said a responsible and free press is needed to champion truth and fight false narratives. “Many citizen journalists lack the training and commitment to a rigid set of journalistic ethics and standards found in most professional news organisations, large and small,” he said.
Ambassador Pascal said journalists have a responsibility to adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and a duty to correct the record when they get it wrong.
ECOWAS representative, Claude Kondor said the bloc members had agreed in the constitution that good governance and press freedom are essential for preserving social justice, preventing conflict, guaranteeing political stability and peace and for strengthening democracy.
He said pushing freedom of expression, freedom of information and press freedom forward require collective responsibility, including the government.