Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Government Commonwealth Media Meeting

Minister Tangara

The Government of The Gambia, under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad (MOFAIC&GA), in close collaboration with the University of The Gambia (UTG), and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation recently held a regional forum and a  workshop with heads of media institutions.
The occasions, which brought media personnel and government officials, availed them the opportunity to evaluate the role, obligation and responsibilities of the media; government and other stakeholders in spurring and deepening development.

The five days programme, held at the Sheraton  Hotel and Spa, in Brufut, early August, 2011, with the theme “Media and Economic Development” came about after a request from the Gambia Government to capacitize the media sector in the country.  
Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr. Momodou Tangara, in his opening remarks, described the theme as a relevant topic which would provide the participants with the opportunity to engage in dialogue on media development and professionalism within the context of the political and economic development agenda.
Describing the Gambia government’s role in media development, he said the hosting of the event in the Gambia “manifests the government of the Gambia’s political will to facilitate the establishment of a professional media that plays its proper and responsible role constructively” in the country’s development and democratization process.  
“The role of the media in our society is undisputed. It is expected to inform, investigate, educate and entertain,” the Minister acknowledged.
“But we also know that the media sometimes distort and mislead. The media should not be used as a platform to destabilize existing institutions, but rather to create conducive environment for cooperation between media and government for national development” he emphasized.
Dr. Tangara suggested that the media should stick on its role in presenting itself as the voice of the people, accommodate all constructive and substantiate views and ensuring that marginal voices and ideas are also heard.
It is the Foreign Affairs Minister’s belief that that would effectively help in enhancing a democratic process; as he noted that in the developed world, the media is more advanced than the developing world. 
 “ Therefore, in as much as we would like our media to participate in nation building, there is need to provide the practitioners with the necessary skills, knowledge and means for their effective and responsible participation”, he also pointed out.
 Moreover, he noted, the media is an inevitable partner in development. And this is why, as he put it, the Gambia government is trying to put in place the basic pre-requisite, including the “enabling environment” for the media practitioners to function in a responsive, responsible and professional manner bearing in mind that it is also the duty of all Gambians, irrespective of their status, to protect the interest and integrity as well as to promote the positive image of the Gambia. 
The head of Africa Section, Political Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Ambassador Ayo Oke also stressed on the point that supporting media as an institution would require greater understanding with government sectors.  
This, among other things, would foster the development of a full-grown information culture, which in turn would embrace regular dialogue between government and the media, he opined.
  He reminded the media to refocus on the key issues of democracy and development, governance and growth. Accountability, transparency and collective engagement of leaders and public institutions at all levels, was also underlined by the Commonwealth Official at the opening ceremony.
Also speaking was Professor Muhammadou M. O. Kah, Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia (UTG), who described this highest educational institution of the country as a “Genuine Broker” between the government and the media.
{The two, most often than not, view each other with suspicion}.
 The University’s Vice Chancellor disclosed at the occasion that the UTG is setting up a media laboratory in its readiness to take on training. 
This, Prof. Kah believes, could do better than it is doing now, especially with technical input already far advanced to make Brikama Campus a fully “e-wired campus”.  
He said: “We envisage our campus newspaper, the Flagship of the Journalism Programme, much in the same way as we envisage our campus digital radio” where skills will be honed before the practitioners take to the streets and deliver on their networks.  
“That is what the University must do and that is what we will achieve,” Prof. Kah challenged, pointing out that they are open to broaden out to television and film as they go into the next decade. 
He emphasized the importance of capacity building, saying it is central to the efforts of the UTG.

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