By Omar Bah

The Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure has said that curbing irregular migration will require the media to hold government accountable.
Speaking Tuesday at the opening of a two-day training workshop on irregular migration for community radio journalists organised by the West Africa Democracy Radio, Ebrima Sillah said the media must ensure that they scrutinise government in their dealings with public funds.
“As journalists, your roles are very critical here. You cannot necessarily provide jobs for people, but you can ensure that you scrutinise government activities to ensure that the budget is spent in a transparent and accountable manner,” he said.

The former radio journalist said the government had a duty of care for the wellbeing of its citizens and therefore, it is the responsibility of journalists to ensure government does not fail in its responsibility.
“Each year The Gambia Government puts aside a budget that is supposed to help young people, communities, farmers and also take care of a lot of other things. It is the responsible of the media to ensure that this money is spent in the right place,” he exhorted.

The media, the Jamburr-born minister added, should ensure that monies collected on behalf of Gambians are well spent, saying if not, people will continue to leave the country to seek better living conditions elsewhere.
“If the services that should allow people to stay in their communities are not there, they will obviously leave. Understanding the dynamics and the politics involved in migration is very important for journalists to effectively report on migration-related issues,” he noted.
He said the media should look at the push-factors in terms of what people go through “looking at the pre-departure, where most of the time families have to use their last savings or sell their lands to help these young people to leave the country”.

Minister Sillah further charged that migration has serious implications on food security and the general development of the country.
“We have to admit that we are losing most of our important assets, the young people, through the migration. Even though they go to Europe to be employed to assist their people. What we have seen in the destination countries is that immediately they arrive, they are hunted down, handcuffed and taken into concentration camps,” he queried.

He added: “I have had the opportunity of visiting the different camps in Libya and what I have seen was very horrific. Most of these young people had no experience of the basic facilities there, and most of them became very hostile to a lot of things.”
The president of the Gambia Press Union, Sheriff Bojang Jnr, said it is the responsibility of journalists to know the root causes of irregular migration and report extensively into its nitty-gritties.
“As far as we want to curb irregular migration as journalists, we have some fundamental ethical issues that we can never take for granted and those are to be truthful, impartial and independent,” he said.

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