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Creating an open society

Dec 19, 2011, 12:13 PM

The role of journalists in creating an open society was the theme of a symposium organized by the Gambia Press Union on Saturday to mark the seventh anniversary of the assassination of the late Deyda Hydara.

Co-publisher and former managing editor of The Point newspaper, Deyda Hydara was gunned down on 16th December 2004 by a yet-to-be-known person.

The theme is, no doubt, apt as it is our conviction that it is no longer fashionable for anyone to gag the media, as the world is moving faster and faster towards an open society.

An open society made possible by a vibrant and responsible media is the zeitgeist of our time, and both government and the media should uphold it.

Despite having the constitutional role to play a watchdog role, journalists in The Gambia operate in a very difficult environment compared to other countries within the sub-region.

There is no doubt that the media remains the most important, and if not the only source of information.

It is common knowledge that information on human rights violations is always got from the media.

The Genocide in Rwanda, the human rights abuses in Burundi, Zaire, Congo, to name but a few, were revealed by the media.

Information is increasingly recognised as one of the major drivers of the evolving global economy, a factor of production alongside land, labour and capital - critical to economic growth and sustainable development.

It has often been said that information is power, without which decisions are untimely, irrational and misdirected. It makes it possible to link producers and consumers to the markets.

Availability of information enables the public to participate meaningfully in governance issues, promotes transparency and accountability in the management of national affairs.

If poverty reduction programmes are to succeed, information has to be availed to people at all levels in The Gambia in order to increase opportunities for wealth creation, as well as guarantee active participation in poverty reduction programmes.

This can only be possible when there is an open society for people to express their views, especially on issues that affect their lives.

It is our opinion that for any government to endure for long it must be based on the consent of the governed. 

“I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I, and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated”.

Nelson Mandela