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EU, UNESCO hand over equipment to Media Houses, Education Sector

Feb 23, 2017, 11:08 AM | Article By: Mahamadou Camara & Cherno Omar Bobb

The European Union and UNESCO have handed over equipment to media houses, the GPU and the University of The Gambia at a ceremony held at the Gambia National UNESCO Commission grounds (at the Women’s Bureau Complex) on Tuesday 22nd February, 2017.

As a United Nations agency with a neutral mandate to support the fields of communication, UNESCO has been identified for the implementation of the journalism and media project of the EU’s governance programme, contributing approximately D35 million to the media reform in The Gambia, in order to advance democratic governance through improving freedom of the Press and the quality of information available to the population.

The primary beneficiaries of this project include media houses: newspapers, community radios, the Gambia Press Union, and the University of The Gambia in the framework of an ongoing initiative implemented by UNESCO to reinforce the capacities of Gambian media professionals.

The items included digital recorders and cameras, desktops, laptops, printers, external data storage and photocopy machines.

Speaking at the handing-over ceremony, EU Ambassador Attila Lajo said a critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. He quoted the South African moral icon, Nelson Mandela, who said:  ‘’The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.’’

Ambassador Lajo noted that the EU is fully committed to supporting the new government in creating and developing the ‘New Gambia’.

He expressed gratitude to all the partners and beneficiaries who actively participated in bringing the project to a success.

“I am very confident that this project will be extremely useful to support the democratic change in The Gambia,” the EU ambassador added.

The Director of UNESCO regional office for West Africa based in Dakar, Mr Gwang-Chol Chang, in his remarks noted that receiving and imparting information, both offline and online, is a cornerstone of democracy, good governance, and rule of law.

At this time of change and transition in The Gambia, the need for quality information has never been so important. Access to information is a fundamental freedom and part of the basic human right to freedom of expression,” Mr Chang said, adding: “UNESCO looks forward to accompanying the ministry and The Gambia in the fostering of a dynamic media landscape.”

He further said that they also planned to offer training in May for members of the Gambia security forces on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in line with the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, ensuring that security forces understand the vocation of journalists and their shared mission to ensure access to information to the Gambian public.

He noted that quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society as it also works to expose Injustice, corruption and the abuse of power.

Mr Chang registered his profound gratitude to the European Union for their continued support and confidence in UNESCO, and reiterated their full commitment to reinforce, by providing the necessary tools and training, the capacities of Gambian media professionals on and offline and to foster professional journalism, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and access to information in The Gambia.

The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Fatou Kineh Jobe, extended her ministry’s appreciation to the European Union and UNESCO for the kind gesture and contribution to the media houses, as well as to the education sector.

She urged media houses, the Gambia Press Union and the University of The Gambia to take full advantage of the equipment and the training offered to enhance their work towards responsible journalism.

The UNDP representative, Ms Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, said the project will ensure that the UTG School of Journalism and Digital Media and the GPU are equipped to deliver professional curricula; and to have functional media houses, for journalists’ partnership built on regular dialogue, trust, professionalism and transparency.

Nana Grey Johnson, dean of the University of The Gambia school of Journalism, and Saikou Jammeh, Secretary General of GPU, both expressed gratitude for the items and promised to make good use of them.

The EU project will also contribute to the achievement of the 2030 development Agenda’s goal (SDG 16) to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.