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Justice Minister Harps On Human Rights, Media Freedom

Oct 14, 2009, 7:05 AM | Article By: Soury Camara

Hon. Marie Saine Firdaus, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, has said that the importance of media freedom in a democratic society could not be over-emphasised.

In a statement read on her behalf by Mrs. Isatou Greyham, a Senior State Counsel at the Civil Litigation Unit, during the opening ceremony of a three-day meeting with the Network of National Human Rights Institutions of the ECOWAS member states yesterday at Jerma Beach Hotel, Mrs. Saine-Firdaus stressed the importance of media freedom.

Addressing the right activists, who are currently in The Gambia to give a tangible meaning to the objectives of human rights in ECOWAS member states, Hon. Saine-Firdaus noted that in The Gambia adequate provisions had been made for media training and capacity development. She cited the recent media house workshop recently conducted by Action Aid Gambia, in collaboration with UNDP and other relevant stakeholders.

According to her, such initiative affirms the importance attached to media freedom and responsible journalism.

She remarked that the concept of human rights institutions is relatively new in Africa, noting that the first conference on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights was held in Yaounde, Cameron in 1996, during which a decision was made to create a co-coordinating committee for Africa on national human rights institutions.

She stated that the exercise of the freedom must be reconciled with the protection of other equally important social interest. As she put it, the enjoyment of rights and freedoms also implies the performance of duties on the part of everyone concerned.

She said though The Gambia is yet to establish a national human rights institution, it is closely working towards that direction.

She revealed that in May 2006, The Gambia had executed an agreement with various United Nations Systems in The Gambia, under the countrywide framework known as UNDAF programme, for the period covering 2007-2011, with the aim of fostering a spirit of cooperation and coordination for the promotion of human development and human rights.

She further revealed that the University of the Gambia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, are working on modalities to create a department for Mass Communications and Journalism.

Mrs. Saine Firdaus also used the opportunity to portray a wide range of other rights institutions that are related to international proclamations, treaties and polices, such as Trafficking in Person Act, Children Act, and Religious Tolerance as a means of addressing issues of democratic governance, transparency and accountability.

Professor Ade Adefuye, Adviser, Democracy and Good Governance ECOWAS Commission, called on the Human Rights Commission and the Civil Society Organisations to come on board and join forces with the Commission in defeating victimisation and oppression.

Prof. Ade urged for "the protocol to be the reference and guide for promoting development and integration of our region that will encourage investment and a peaceful society".

Prof. Ade implored on member states to highlight things that ECOWAS as a Commission can do to assist in advancing the promotion of human right ideals for its members.