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GPU Congress: let’s elect the right candidates

Apr 17, 2015, 10:12 AM

Members of the Gambia media fraternity tomorrow, Saturday, will go to congress to elect a new executive that will steer the affairs of the Gambia Press Union for the next three years.

It’s the 7th triennial congress of the union since its establishment in 1978.

The 66 journalists who are said to be eligible to vote will elect among themselves nine people that constitute the executive, to lead the union that is dedicated not only to press freedom and media development, but also to the development of the country in general.

We are aware that there has been an intensive under-ground campaign mainly by two camps, one of which is led by the incumbent president, Emil Touray, who is seeking a second term in office; he has already spent two terms as an executive member – one as secretary general and another as president.

It is not very clear who the presidential candidate of the other faction, for the camp is yet to declare openly its candidate.

However, it is important that before giving any member of the incumbent executive another three-year mandate, GPU members should thoroughly discuss and debate the merits or otherwise of doing so.

Members have to flash back to see how open and transparent was the Emil Touray executive; how accountable they were in terms of managing the resources, projects of the union, no matter how small; what they achieved and how well they served the interest of members.

Examining the achievements and failures of this executive would be an objective way of deciding on whether or not to vote for anyone’s re-election.

For other candidates who might not be on the previous GPU executive, the electorate have to assess those people based on their track record in the media. If the person is heading or has headed an organisation, particularly a journalism organisation, they have to be examined based on how well they have supervised or ran the affairs of that association; how open and transparent are or were their activities, and how accountable are or were they to the members.

Perhaps, it is very important to state that all the executive positions of the GPU are key, but positions like president and secretary general have to be given to people who are very au fait with the trend and tricks of the Gambia media environment. Such people should have the professional experience and integrity.

This is critical to the management and integrity of a union that continues to face numerous challenges in terms of operating in an environment that is generally not too in for the media.

We urge all journalists to turn out in their numbers to attend the congress. Even those who are not part of the list of 66 names should come to attend all the proceeding like the presentation of the financial and status reports of the union.

They should be given the chance to make their points known on the status quo of the union, and how good or bad they think it was managed by Emil and his executive.

People must be allowed to speak their minds over issues of concern to them. This will create understanding and serve as an opportunity for the incoming executive to have ideas as to how to address the concerns of members.

As we congratulate in advance the incoming executive, we wish to remind them that one of their tasks is to ensure the GPU continues to survive and to serve well media practitioners in The Gambia, without discrimination.

One of their biggest tasks, though, is to unite the journalists, whose fraternity has been visibly divided by the electioneering. They have to do their utmost to ensure the unity of the media fraternity is sustained.

Also, the executive have to be more pro-active and vigorous in their defence of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in particular.

As for now, we keenly await the outcome of the 7th congress of the GPU, and we hope that at the end of the day, the right people will be elected.

“Leadership can not be measured in a poll or even in the result of an election. It can only be truly seen with the benefit of time. From the perspective of 20 years, not 20 days.”