Friday, May 14, 2010

GPU Celebrates World Press Freedom Day

News Banjul The Gambia(MB)-Journalists in The Gambia under their umbrella body, the Gambia Press Union (GPU), on Monday 3rd May 2010 joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Press Freedom Day at a symposium held at the Alliance Franco Gambienne along Kairaba Avenue.
The symposium which facilitated knowledge giving and sharing, as well as discussions on the issue of freedom of the press was held under the global theme: “Freedom of Information – The Right to Know”.
The event was attended by journalists in both in the print and electronic media, as well as represenaives of non governmental organisations and civil society organisations.

Reading a statement on behalf of the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Binta Singhateh, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, said that “freedom of information - the right to know” accords with Section 207 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. The section reads:
“The freedom ad independence of the press and other information media are hereby guaranteed.
“The press of the National Assembly may make provisions for the establishment and operation of the press and other information, media.
“The Press and other media shall at all times, be free to uphold the principles, provision and objectives of this constitution, and the responsibility and the accountability of the Government to the people of the Gambia”.
She said the proliferation of newspapers and radio stations, since the advent of the Second Republic, also attests to the fact that the Gambia government is fully supportive of a free and pluralistic media, as a well as of peace, progress and prosperity for the people of the country.
“However, I would like to emphasize that freedom goes with responsibility. This explains why Section 209 of the same Constitution places certain limitations on the rights and freedoms of the press”, she said.
The deputy Permanent Secretary pointed out that Section 209 states: “the provisions of Section 207 and 208 are subject to laws which are responsibly required in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public order, public morality and for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of others”.
“I challenge my colleagues in the media to seize the opportunity offered by the World Press Freedom Day to reflect on the nature of ethical journalism.
The Minister’s representative reminded them of the 7th and 8th points of the IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists that was adopted by the 1954 World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists and amended by the 1986 World Congress.
The 7th point of the IFJ Declaration. Fatima Singhateh, outlined stated that “the journalists shall be aware of the dangers of discrimination being furthered by the media and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins”.
On the 8th point, she said “the journalists shall regard as grave professional offences the following:
Plagiarism, malicious misrepresentation, calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations, and acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression”.
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) commended the media in the Gambia for their tireless efforts at disseminating information to the public.
Angela Nagga, who represented the IHRDA, stated that receiving information builds our knowledge and allows us to live our humanity and exercise our rights and duties more effectively. The African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights, she said, has repeatedly asserted that being able to disseminate information is critical in the public or individual’s ability to exercise their rights to receive information.
“Our fundamental rights of primary concern to IHRDA’s work in the Gambia is access to justice. Access to justice is incomplete without equality before the law”, she said.
Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, in a statement sent by the National Unesco Commission, read by Emil Touray, GPU Secretary General, said freedom of information is the principle that organisations and governments have a duty to share or provide ready access to information they hold, to anyone who wants it, based on the public’s right to be informed.
The right to know is central for upholding other basic rights, for furthering transparency, justice and development”, she said, adding that, hand-in-hand with the complementary notion of freedom of expression, it underpins democracy.
According to Ms Bokova, obstacles in the way of the right to know take many forms, from a lack of resources and inadequate infrastructure to deliberate obstruction.
“Far too many journalists exercise their profession in an environment where restrictions on information are the norm, where dealing with pressure, harassment, intimidation or even physical assault are all in a day’s work”, she said.
The head of UNESCO condemned the killing of 77 journalists, last year most of whom were not war casualties, but local reporters covering local stories.
She invited all these commemorating World Press Freedom Day around the world to remember those whom it is too late to help, and to honour the journalists who paid with their lives for our rights to know.
According to the UNESCO Director General, on the side of significant advances, more and more countries around the world are adopting freedom of information legislation.
Apart from that, “the faster and cheaper technology means that more people in the world have ready access to information from outside their immediate environment than ever before.
“Now is the time for us to capitalize on these advances, by strengthening institutions, by providing the necessary training for information professionals, by fostering greater openness within their public sectors and greater awareness among the public”.
She finally called on governments, civil society, the news media and individuals everywhere to join forces with UNESCO in promoting freedom of information all over the world. The occasion was chaired by Mrs. Amie Bojan Sissoko of GAMCOTRAP

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