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Gambia commemorates World Press Freedom Day

May 5, 2011, 2:30 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The Gambia Press Union on Tuesday 3rd May 2011 joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day with calls for greater freedom of expression and for freedom of the press, describing them as important components of a democratic society.

The day, celebrated annually across the globe, brought together veteran Gambian journalists, representatives of civil society organizations, and of the ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, as well as politicians including opposition leaders.

Funded by UNESCO BREDA through the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO, this year’s celebration centered on the theme: 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.

In a statement read on her behalf by Momodou Faal, Treasurer of the Gambia Press Union, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, President of the Gambia Press Union described this year’s theme as an apt reminder of how far we have come, yet how far we need to go.

She stated that the struggle for free societies continues both at the sub-regional, regional and international levels. The developments in new media are yet to become a threat to traditional media in The Gambia as in other parts of the world, so long as access to and affordability of new media tools remain out of the reach of ordinary Gambians, our traditional media is here to stay.

According to her, the benefits of new media outweigh the downside and, as such, Gambian journalists, media practitioners and media institutions should join the bandwagon and take advantage of the unending possibilities and reach that comes with the new developments in ICTs and new media.

Noting that the occasion should also be a day of reflection for our departed colleagues, Ndey called on journalists to spare a thought for them, citing the late Lamin Darboe of Foroyaa and Deyda Hydara of The Point newspaper, as well as Chief Ebrima Manneh.

She noted that as World Press Freedom Day is being celebrated, journalists should strive to uphold the cause for which the late Deyda Hydara lived, adding that regionally, the Federation of African Journalists has launched a campaign on Eritrean Journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Yahya Al-Matarr Jobe, Principal Programme Officer who deputized for the Secretary General of the National UNESCO Commission, recalled Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948, which states that the fundamental rights of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom “to seek, receive and impact information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

He said UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and fosters media independence and pluralism by providing advisory services on media legislations and by making governments, parliamentarians, and other decision makers aware of the need to guarantee free expression.

“Today, we enjoy unprecedented opportunities for expression thanks to the new technologies and media. More and more people are able to share information and exchange views, within and across national borders. This is a blessing for creativity, for healthy societies, and for including everyone in a new form of dialogue,” he noted.

The day was also characterised by presentations on various topics including “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers” by veteran Gambain journalist George Christensen, proprietor of Radio 1FM in Banjul; “Legal and Regulatory Perspective: Better protection for freedom of expression in the age of digital communication” by Almamy Taal, a lawyer and CEO of Real Time Consulting; and on “New Trends of Journalism: models, media ownership, and preserving editorial independence” by Cherno Jallow, a media consultant.

Meanwhile, the Gambia Press Union for the first time gave awards to three Gambian journalists in the areas of Investigation, Health and Sports.

ActionAid International The Gambia sponsored the prizes for the awards.

The best health journalist award went to Dawda Faye, senior reporter with The Point newspaper; Fabakary B. Ceesay of the Foroyaa newspaper received the best investigative reporter award, while the award for the best sports journalist went to The Point newspaper’s Lamin Drammeh.

Reacting to his award, Dawda Faye said he dedicated his award to journalists Chief Ebrima Manneh, Deyda Hydara and the entire media fraternity.

“I would like to thank GPU, ActionAid, and UNESCO for the award, and I also like to dedicate this award to the entire media fraternity. I am much honored today to receive this award. This award is a source of motivation and encouragement for me to do more writing and read more, so that I can come up with more articles,” he said.

Dilating on the topic FGM, on which he wrote for the award, Faye described the practice as hazardous and dangerous as it affects the health of the girl-child.

“I feel that I should come up with an article on the issue of FGM so that it can discourage the practice,” he concluded.