#Article (Archive)

It is inappropriate to license journalists

Sep 11, 2014, 12:35 PM

The report appeared in The Standard newspaper of Wednesday 2014. It was carried like a “filler” on the back page, but deserved to be prominently displayed.

Headlined “SJAG queries parts of draft National Sports Bill”, the report said, “members of the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia, SJAG, attending the current discussion on the draft National Sports Bill, have expressed concern about proposed items that would require sports journalists to be licensed by the National Sports Council, NSC, before they can practice.

The proposed items also provide the NSC with powers to revoke such licenses when necessary.”

It continued: “In their intervention at Monday’s discussions, SJAG members raised strong objections to the proposal and called for it to be removed from  the draft, describing it as an attack on press freedom.

“They also clarified that the SJAG is a professional body and not a national sports association and, therefore, does not fall under the control of the NSC.”

There cannot be a more appropriate clarification than the SJAG members’ “query”. It provides all the guidance the drafters of the bill need in addressing this matter.

We have a copy of the draft bill, and actually there is a whole “Part IX” entitled:  “Part IX Licensing of Sports Journalists”.  Under Section 1 1b. its stated: “The Government shall take measures to ensure:

That license of sports journalists are renewed every two years at a cost to be determined by Government. Section 1 2b and 2c states that  “Government shall ensure: a)That only individuals who meet the basic requirements set by Government are licensed to practice as Sports Journalists at a cost to be determined by Government; b) Sports Journalists who are found wanting have their license revoked.”

The newspaper report highlighted what we want to believe is not a deliberate plan, but definitely perhaps a well-intentioned but not a well-thought-through attempt to institute government regulation of sports journalists.

This matter brings back memories of the battle the veterans won against the government’s attempt to create a “National Media Commission” to control the press.

It was a great achievement, and journalists must continue to be vigilant, lest government control is brought in, consciously or unconsciously!

As rightly pointed out by the SJAG members at the forum, SJAG members are JOURNALISTS, just that they specialized in reporting on SPORTS, again, just like the journalists who cover the courts, who cover the crime or police beat, the investigative journalists, the business and financial news journalists etc.

They are answerable to their media houses and the GPU i.e. for those who are members of the GPU – the same way teachers answer to the GTU, the doctors to the Medical and Dental Council, and the lawyers to the Gambia Bar Association and General Legal Council.

Journalists have been calling for a self-regulatory mechanism – such as the doctors’ and legal practitioners’ councils mentioned above.

We believe that is the Way Forward, and do sincerely hope that the government will work with us to put this in place.

SJAG is affiliated with the Gambia Press Union. SJAG and NSC are supposed to be partners; SJAG is one of the stakeholders in the country in sports.

This is how matters stand!

“Journalists have been calling for a self-regulatory mechanism ...

We believe that is the Way Forward, and do sincerely hope that the government will work with us to put this in place.” The Point