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ICFJ completes online security training for Gambian media practitioners

Apr 23, 2013, 12:05 PM

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), in collaboration with the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and Foundation for Legal Aid Research and Education (FLARE) on 20 April 2013 completed a two-day online safety and security training workshop for media practitioners from different media houses operating in the Greater Banjul Area of The Gambia.

The training, which was held at William Dixon Colley conference hall at the GPU secretariat, was meant to equip freelance online reporters, editors and website managers on safer use of the internet, as professionals disseminating and managing information for public consumption.

The discussed topics covered safer internet use, computer protection against malware attacks, security measures against internet hackings, latest internet technology uses, such as mobile phone journalism and the use of social media, to bring about better and positive change in society.

Alieu Sagnia, ICJF-country director and workshop moderator, in his welcoming remarks, at the opening ceremony said the training is the latest training course for Gambian journalists, organised by ICFJ, in collaboration with its local partners, under the ICFJ Gambia Project.

He added that the training workshop on online journalism was one of the recommended activities arising from the Baseline Report of the project, designed to enable Gambian journalists working online to communicate with online security.

He expressed delight at the turnout of the participants, all of whom were selected because of their online work, as reporters/editors, as website managers for their organizations, etc.

“Training in Online Journalism is among the original list of areas identified by the ICFJ Gambia project, when we started in November 2010. That list included training in Election Reporting, Media and the Law, management training for media managers, and training workers and managers of rural community radios in The Gambia,” Mr Sania recollected.

He said among the workshop target is to set up professional networks and an alert system for Gambian media professionals, with an e-mail listserv and an online networking page; adding that: “Creating this network was one of the stated objectives of the ICFJ Gambia Project. In tandem with the listserv, we will use social networking tools, such as Facebook, to continue to unite our participants beyond the scope of the workshops.”

He highlighted that the four components of the project listed include training for young journalists and bloggers, skills-building, to facilitate and improve communication among journalists, strengthen professional networks, among others.

He finally expressed hope that the training will be useful to participants, and therefore called on them to effectively participate in what was designed to be an interactive workshop.

The keynote speaker, Madi Jobarteh of Flare, in his remarks, said online journalism is a global phenomenon, which started in the early 90s in the USA, and gradually helped most Americans get access to information using the internet; and currently majority of the traditional media, such as newspapers and radio stations are using the internet.

He said online journalism is a growing phenomenon, making great impact, including influencing changes, such as the Arab Spring Uprising in Egypt and Tunisia, which he noted, were fueled by the use of mobile phones and the internet to effect political changes.

However, Mr Jobarteh said online or citizen journalism do not enjoy certain rights, compared to traditional media, noting that websites are blocked, particularly in countries considered to be pioneers of democracy, such as USA, hence depriving users their rights to utilise free media.

He also commented on the limited control in terms of ethics and professionalism, use of inappropriate images, especially in the social media, such as facebook; and therefore expressed the need to bring about ethics and professionalism in online journalism practices.

He expressed Flare’s acknowledgement, and commended the continuous capacity-building activities of the Gambia media by ICFJ.

He also said there are national laws in The Gambia protecting freedom of information, but added that there are also laws that endanger the work of journalists.

Bai Emil Touray, GPU’s President, for his part, said the training is significant in day-to-day work of participants, to learn and share information online.

He expressed the need to improve the work of online journalists, many of whom, he said, are using the internet without being conscious of online ethics, adding that involving them in practical training, including mobile phone internet usage is relevant.

He spoke of the rapid development on the issue of mobile journalism, which he first heard about three years back, and now it’s common all over, including The Gambia.

He spoke of the significance of secured communication, citing the issues of cyber crimes, such as internet hacking and cracking, which is becoming a major cause for concern, requiring online users to have sense of online security measures.

He finally urged the participants to take up the training seriously.

The training proper started soon after the opening, with Mr Charles Uche Emenugha starting his presentation by noting that journalists handle very delicate information that’s capable of ruining society. Consequent upon this, he said, the information they disseminate should be checked and controlled responsibly. He then stressed the need for journalists to be conscious of safer use of information they pass on to the public, especially through the internet.

Mr Uche during the two-day training lectured participants on the use of the internet, how to prevent computers from virus and other malware attacks, proper control of contents, conduct and contact management online.  He also taught journalists on family safety measures on computer uses, to avoid children falling victims of internet crimes; use of mobile phone internet communication, making specific reference to the evolution of mobile phone technology development in Nigeria.