Aug 12, 2008, 6:31 AM
The minister of the Interior, Ousman Sonko, Saturday assured Gambian journalists of the government’s cooperation, especially as the country moves towards yet another presidential election, stressing that government and journalists are partners in development and not enemies.
“We are not your enemies, but partners in development because at the end of the day, we all have a role to play in the development process of this country,” Sonko told journalists.
He was speaking during the celebration of the fourth anniversary of the Young Journalists Association of the Gambia, (YJAG) which also coincided with the association’s congress held at the new Kanifing Municipal Council Multipurpose centre in Kanifing South.
He told the gathering of mainly journalists that as Gambians, we should have our country first, and take whatever comes next as a bonus.
Describing the theme for this year’s anniversary: “The Role of Journalists in Election Reporting” as apt, Sonko said this is the period in which we have found ourselves, and it would not have come at a better time than now.
“The media plays a very important role in the maintenance of peace and security. It is a collective responsibility,” he said, adding that no development can be achieved without this.
While calling on journalists to always do fact-finding and fact-checking before publishing anything, Interior Minister Sonko noted that most newspapers in The Gambia are now online, and whatever people outside read is what they tend to believe.
“This country is on a transformation in which young people are now at the helm of affairs. As young journalists, you must be professional in whatever you do; you should not allow yourselves to be used by others. Think of the country first in whatever you do,” he told journalists.
According to him, journalists should not see members of the armed and security forces as rivals, during the election period.
“We should rally behind each other and support each other, because this is the time when observers from all over the world come in to monitor, and this is the time when politicians use young reporters to do what they want,” Sonko stated.
While also assuring the journalists of the fullest cooperation of the armed and security forces, Sonko said the armed and security forces too need the support and cooperation of journalists to ensure a free and fair election.
He went on to underscore the need to restore the trust between journalists and the armed and security forces, stressing that it is the collective duty of all to safeguard and protect the interest of the country.
Bai Emil Touray, president of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) also assured the minister of the fullest cooperation of journalists, while calling on him to ensure that the enabling environment for journalists to do their work prevails, “especially as we approach the presidential election”.
Noting that elections are an important tool meant to choose our leaders, the GPU president told journalists that this should never warrant a problem.