By Kebba Jeffang
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has on Sunday, December 23 launched the self-regulatory Media Council of The Gambia (MCG) as part of a series of events marking the 14th anniversary of the assassination of veteran journalist Deyda Hydara.
Sheriff Bojang Jnr, GPU president said the media council will be self-regulatory. He said the intent is to ensure and promote professionalism but not to be controlled by the state.
“I urge the journalists to submit themselves to the Council,” he said.
Cherno Jallow, a journalism trainer at Insight Training Center challenged journalists to pursue real issues like farming sector, the stories of fishermen and other underreported issues.
“They have a story to tell. Go and tell their stories. Let’s hear from our women. They have stories. They are the most productive sector in this country.
“The problem we face today is unverified stories. I congratulate you for a job well done. We are not disappointed by the Union,” said the veteran journalists.
Baba Hydara, son of Deyda Hydara said the moment is to remember his father who was killed for his efforts and resilience in the cause of fighting for press freedom. He emphasised the need to revoke media laws which are inimical to media freedom as it makes no sense to retain them.
Speaking on behalf of the Chairman of Constitutional Review Commission, Sainey M.K Marenah associated Deyda’s killing with his stance in promoting press freedom in the country.
“The new media Council is to ensure protection of freedom of expression in the country,” he said.
He said the CRC chairperson has urged for standardization of journalism in terms of respect for ethics. He cautioned journalists that citizens have expressed concerns about standards and urged them to take note, whether their queries are valid or not.
Madi Jobarteh, Westminster Foundation country representative said “self-regulation will ensure that “we are our own keepers.”
He said other alternatives like government controlling it might turn to be such regulations that will be abused.
Jobarteh said the body will undoubtedly ensure ethical standard in the works of journalism.
Agnes Thomas from West Africa Democracy Radio challenged female journalists to take up tough assignments in the news rooms including investigative journalism. She also encouraged journalists to pay attention when reporting about gender sensitive issues.
Baba Galleh Jallow said: “TRRC is committed to ensuring a national response to ending crimes against journalists and the cause of the death of people like DeydaHydara are established and given closure.”
He said Deyda was a Gambian who was helping Gambians to understand what they did not by telling the truth to power which eventually took his life. He said the truth he told was clear and powerful.
Dr. Jallow assured that TRRC will leave no stone unturned to investigating the death of Deyda Hydara.
Dr. Henry Carrol, representing the Attorney General and Minister of Justice AboubacarrTambadou, said the family of Deyda Hydara had taken a clean route in seeking justice at the ECOWAS court. He said the government will need to comply with the ruling and eventually pay the compensation.
However, Ebrima Sillah, Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure said the government has already paid compensation on two cases regarding the ECOWAS Court ruling.
He said they have tried to repeal all draconian laws before the end of the year at the National Assembly but could not because of circumstances beyond the control of the Ministry of Justice. Now he said this will be done early March.
Sillah assured government’s support for the self-regulatory body. However, he made it clear that the state cannot finance it in any way including subvention. According to him, they cannot convince the National Assembly for approving such funding.
He said he will support self-regulation that is backed by legislation and believes that they can work that out with the GPU at some later date.
“We are not going to be a government that will harass or interfere in your work and we will continue to work with you,” he said.
Minister Sillah went on to officially launch the first ever Media Council in the country, assuring his government’s support to the self-regulatory body.