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Getting It Right

Apr 27, 2009, 7:32 AM

At least 30 journalists drawn from both the print and electronic media are beginning a three-week intensive capacity building workshop at the Gambia Press Union Secretariat today. The workshop is designed to make them more effective journalists. The professionalism of the Gambia media has always been a subject of heated debate, with some arguing that Gambia journalists are impostors because they lack professional training. Training programmes such as the ongoing one will help to address this deficiency as well as enabling the journalists to be better able to discharge their statutory watchdog role of holding government and its institutions and other sector players accountable to the Gambian people.

The participants will receive a thorough foregrounding in the principles and practice of journalism. Modules such as the good journalism methods and practice will stand them in good stead in carrying out their basic journalistic assignments. And when this is augmented with modules on ethical standards and essential laws for the journalists, then the participants will gain the nuances of the profession, which in turn will give them an appreciable level of competence that will heighten journalism practice in the country.

The ethical and legal aspects of journalism are particularly essential because of recent developments in Gambia journalism. At least four journalists have been arraigned within the past four years on charges of publishing false information. Hopefully, at the end of the training programme, the participants will know how to sidestep these legal pitfalls and operate more safely.

In keeping with global changes, there is also a module on Internet information research. There is no doubt that the advent of the Internet has revolutionized the world, particularly journalism. No journalist is worth their salt if they are no able to use new technologies to do their job. This aspect of the course is also significant as it will keep the participants abreast of the latest developments in online journalism. It is all together a rich menu that promises to change the mode of journalism practice in The Gambia for good.

And that is just as well because any effort directed at improving journalism is an effort meant for the common good. It is so because a professional and responsible journalism, it has been demonstrated, plays a pivotal role in the democratization process in the interest of national development.

A unique aspect of this particular capacity building workshop is that the participants will have to do a research work on the major challenges facing Gambia journalism. Though it will be exacting for them, it will not only offer them insight into the peculiar nature of journalism practice in the country; it will also test their mettle and readiness to carrying on in the demanding terrain of journalism. This is a watershed workshop that will pave the way for the start of a real journalism school in the country.

The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) deserve commendation for supporting the cause of press freedom and responsible and effective journalism. The next big thing for all stakeholders is to set up a full-fledged school of journalism that will offer certificate, diploma and post-graduate diploma courses in the country. It is our hope that the journalism school project will get off the ground soonest.

"Knowledge itself is power."

Bacon, Francis