The commencement of works to comprehensively reform the media sector, led by the Gambia Press Union and the Ministry of Information, heralds a new dawn in not only media development but also Gambia’s democratisation process.
The composition of the experts group leading the process couldn’t be any better for it consists of people who know very well the problems and constraints of Gambian journalists and the media and they also know the international best practices for media development.
Notwithstanding, we would like to remind them and reiterate our call for access to information, and for closer cooperation between the Gambia government and the media.
We are partners in development and not enemies; hence we should support each other. There are certain issues to redress immediately for the media houses, which include regular training, support with equipment, as well as subscription to newspapers and timely payment for such by government institutions and parastatals.
The media, in general, is facing a lot of constraints in recovering debts after rendering services to government institutions and parastatals.
It takes us several months to be paid for the advertisements that we publish for government institutions and parastatals, which gravely affects our cash flow and keeps us in a tight corner in meeting our financial obligations, such as to pay our suppliers for printing materials and our staff wages on time.
Nowadays, many African countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Gabon provide a subvention to sustain the press.
The other thing the expert group should take up, as promised by the new government, is to repeal all draconian media laws.
As regards advertisements that we publish for government institutions and parastatals, we recommend that the government should step in, particularly the Ministry of Finance, to introduce mechanisms for the media houses to be paid on time.
Journalists in The Gambia are making a lot of sacrifices to educate and inform the public.
The new generation of journalists, however, should not abuse press freedom and get ourselves in trouble with the law through such crimes as defamation.
We should be accurate, objective and fair in our reporting, even as we endeavour to promote divergent views.
The new government should facilitate training for journalists, access to equipment and give more facilities to the school of journalism in the country.
“Bridge the gap between the government and the press.”