Sep 13, 2010, 3:11 PM
The coordinator of the Foundation for Legal Aid and Empowerment, FLARE, Madi Jobarteh, has told journalists at the World Press Freedom Day symposium that good governance ensures a free press in a democratic society.
Presenting a paper on: “The role of the media in promoting accountability and good governance” at the TANGO conference hall, Mr. Jobarteh defined governance as system of institutions, laws, policies and processes that ensure transparency, accountability, popular participation and the rule of law in society at all levels, noting that governance is not the same as government.
“Governance is the system. Government is one of the institutions of the governance system,” he said further noting that “other governance institutions and organizations include civil society organizations, private sector institutions, political parties, professional bodies, trade unions and faith-based organizations.”
He told his audience that “the foundation upon which good governance, democracy and development can flourish is human rights. The separation of powers principle creates three arms of the state which are independent of each other – the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature. They constitute the state. “According to him, the media is considered the Fourth Estate, adding that good governance promotes human rights and development in a number of ways.
Jobarteh, who is a rights activist, also pointed out that good governance encourages public participation in government, inclusion in law-making and policymaking, and accountability of elected and appointed officials, adding that it enables civil society to become actively involved in policymaking and leads to the wide representation of societal interests in decision-making.
Still on the importance of good governance, Jobarteh said it helps in strengthening and ensuring the independence and provision of adequate resources for the courts, parliament, law enforcement, justice delivery institutions; institutionalizing popular participation; strengthening women’s political representation ; ensuring free media and making public media accessible ; and creating a governance system responsive to the needs of the population .
He further noted that states are responsible for delivering a variety of services to their populations, including education, health and social welfare services.
“The provision of these services is essential to the protection of human rights such as the right to housing, health, education and food; equitable access to social services through a transparent budget process; strengthening institutional capacities to improve social services – access, affordability, quality, availability.”
He said the rule of law consists of a set of institutions, laws and practices that are established to prevent the arbitrary exercise of power.
On accountability, he said it is a process of taking responsibility for decisions and actions by governments and public service organizations; by private sector companies; by civil society institutions and organizations; by individuals working in them; including their stewardship of public funds; fairness and all aspects of performance.
Defining transparency, he said it means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations, adding that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.
“For governance to be just and democratic, leaders need to use their power responsibly and for the greater good. Systems and procedures need to be in place that impose restraints on power and encourage government officials to act in the public’s best interests. These systems and procedures fall within the realm of what is known as accountability.”
He quoted section 25 of the national constitution on Freedom Of speech, which said “every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media; freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
“Section 207 on freedom and responsibility of the media states that “the freedom and independence of the press and other information media are hereby guaranteed. The press and other information media shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provisions and objectives of this Constitution, and the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia”.
Section 208 on the responsibility of state-owned media states: “All state-owned newspapers, journals, radio and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion”.