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SPEECH BY ASSAN SALLAH, PRESIDENT OF YJAG ON THE 4th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE ASSOCIATION HELD AT THE KMC MULTI-PURPOSE HALL, KANIFING ON OCTOBER 22ND, 2011.
Assan Sallah Outgoing President
Today marks an important milestone in the annals of the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia. As we celebrate our 4th anniversary which also coincided with the association’s 2nd Congress. I am therefore deeply honoured to give my welcome remarks in this important gathering.
Today is a moment of reflection on our achievements in the past for my executive as it marks the end of term for my executive and the beginning of a new term for the incoming executive. I also want to make it very clear that I am stepping down after serving as president of the association for two years and I will not contest for any position.
However, I would also want to assure the incoming executive that you have my support and can always count on me whenever the need arises. I will still be an honorary member and guide you in our drive to move the association forward.
Ladies and gentlemen
Each year when we celebrate our anniversary, we choose a theme and discuss on it. The theme for this year’s celebration is; “the role of journalists in elections.”
The theme of the 4th anniversary is indeed timely as we are approaching the 2011 Presidential Elections by next month. May I also use the opportunity to inform this gathering that there will be a training on the role of journalists in elections for members of the association which will be held today immediately after the opening ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen
You will all agree with me that elections are the cornerstone of any democracy and the media has a vital role in informing the public about what the politicians are promising and to tell the politicians what ordinary people want, or they do not want, as well as ensuring that elections are free and fair. Therefore the importance of the proposed training on election reporting is also very important.
Ladies and gentlemen
The role of the media as the fourth estate in nation building is primarily to provide information, to report on events, to provide forums for debate and consideration with access to information regarding political and societal developments by all groups in society, and to fulfill the role of watchdog on public affairs. Such power also brings responsibility with regards to standards, ethics and truth.
However, this can only be attained within the enclave of an empowered human resource base. This as well explains the enormous challenges faced by Gambians journalists particularly the sprouting ones, who are obsessed with the burning desire to land their tender feet on the soil of this noble profession.
Ladies and gentlemen
Even though there are not many institutions available to offer journalism courses, associations have been born with formidable zeal and determination to enliven the profession and to protect the interest and integrity of the actors in this field, particularly the young ones, on whose shoulders lie the future of these esteemed profession.
It was exactly based on this line of thought that the Young Journalists’ Association of The Gambia (YJAG) emerged on the 16th of September 2007, with the following objectives;
Promoting unity among young journalists in The Gambia; provide capacity building; addressing the welfare of its members; promote mutual government-media relationship, compliment the efforts of the Gambia Press Union in promoting press freedom, among others.
However, in an effort to meet these objectives, YJAG has made significant strides towards promoting the welfare of young Gambian journalists during my term as president of the association from September 2009 to September 2011.
These achievements include;
Climate Change Conference
One of the first activities held in November 2009 was a “Climate Change Conference” at the Baobab Holiday Resort and funded by the World Wildlife Fund, through the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment.
The conference was designed to increase the knowledge of young journalists with regard to climate change and its effects on the environment and the lives of the people. We believe that journalists can only report accurately on a particular subject when they understand it well.
With the climate change summit to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark a month later, the conference facilitated the creation of an organisation of youth groups across the country to converge on a one day follow up conference and outlined issues of common concern to The Gambian youth delegation to Copenhagen to present at the summit.
Call on media chiefs
Since then, my executive and members of the association have undertaken a series of activities in line with the 2009/10 action plan. The first being a tour of media houses which was aimed at discussing the plight of young journalists in the print and electronic media.
During the tour in January this year, we visited and discussed with the Managing Editor of Today newspaper, the Publisher and Proprietor of the Daily News, Editor-In-Chief of Foroyaa newspaper, the Managing Director of Daily Observer, the Editor-In-Chief of The Voice newspaper, the Publisher and Proprietor of The Gambia News and Report Magazine, the Managing Director of The Point, the Managing Director of Digest Publication, and The Director of Information Services, Gambia Info.
There were calls on media chiefs to provide in-house trainings for young journalists, increase remunerations of staff; with specific focus on freelancers in order to enable them deliver in their news rooms as expected.
All media chiefs promised to pay heed to our call and in fact, we are glad to note that there have been remarkable improvements since, though we still need to adjust.
The reaction we got from them was that YJAG can be a nursery bed for the proper germination of the seeds of journalism in The Gambia. They also told us that the plight of young journalists is an important issue and that it is not only about having the right to express yourself freely, but the profession should also earn you a decent life.
It was also admitted that young journalists are the life blood of every newspaper; however, media chiefs lamented the cost of running a newspaper, saying equipments are expensive and this can cut down earnings.
Nonetheless, they promised to support the association to the fullest.
Training on media laws
“Understanding Media Laws in The Gambia” was the theme of a one-day training programme for Young Journalists organised by my executive in February 2010.
The training was held at the Joint Officers Mess in Kotu and it brought together 40 young journalists including affiliate members of writers clubs in various schools in the country.
It was aimed at building the capacity of young journalists in the country to better execute their duties in conformity with the Laws of the land. It also gave young journalists the opportunity to broaden their horizon on the media laws in the country and how they should observe and respect these laws.
Presentations on the topic were delivered by Dr. Henry Carrol, Sam Sarr, editor-in-chief Foroyaa newspaper, and Lawyer Edward Gomez, now the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The opening of the event was presided over by the Chief Justice of The Gambia Emmanuel Agim.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It would be interesting to know that YJAG got a big disappointment from Vision Development Foundation, otherwise called VDF, a charitable foundation in Churchills Town.
This foundation promised to sponsor our training on Media Laws and they told us to sign and agreement with a particular Restaurant in town to provide Breakfast and Lunch for 40 people during this training. They also promised to settle the bill upon receipt of our letter of agreement, which was signed by both YJAG and the said Restaurant. To our surprise, they failed us and have not until today settle that bill yet. Several follow up calls were made to this effect but still they did not respond to us, instead they keep giving us empty promises.
However, the Restaurant owner was very mad with us and I settled that bill from my own account. So as we speak, YJAG is owing me D5, 000.
Again, during that same media laws training, Hon. Edward Gomez, the Attorney General and minister of Justice made a pledge that he will give us D10, 000, hence our account was in red at that time but until today, we have not receive that D10, 000 pledge, despite several efforts made to remind him about it.
Therefore I will use this opportunity to again remind the Honourable Minister of Justice of his pledge to YJAG.
Gambia college press club trains members
With the support of YJAG, The Gambia College Press Club (GCPC) held a day-long training session on “Basic Journalism” for its members in March 2010 at the Brikama Campus.
The Gambia College Press Club contacted YJAG to assist in what the club’s president called the need “to recruit students in the press and build their capacity through training” in order to better enhance their day-to-day work as college press corps.
YJAG delegated three of its members, myself being the President, Aminata Sanneh the first Vice President and Mamadou Edrisa Njie, second Vice President to present papers on Writing Skills and Techniques in News Writing, Interview Techniques, News Gathering and Code of Ethics.
Breaking provincial boundaries
In May 2010, the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia embarked on a provincial tour of the country in a hectic but thrilling undertaking in which it held series of meetings with Community Radio Stations and Senior Secondary Schools.
The tour was intended to help young journalists familiarize themselves with not only their communities but the wider parts of the country. It is widely believed that a good journalist must know his or her community in order to effective in carrying out his/her duty to inform. So YJAG deemed it fit to take to the other side of the country.
The three-day tour took 20 members of YJAG to Fort Bullen in Barra, Armitage Senior Secondary and the Underground Slave House in Jangjangbureh, Radio Gambia, Unique FM and Paradise FM, all in Basse, and the Brikamaba Community Radio Station.
The tour was also meant to expand membership of the association and its activities by inviting young reporters in various Radio Stations and would be reporters from Senior Schools to join YJAG.
Courtesy calls on government officials
Earlier on, in February 2010 the executive paid a courtesy Vice President ofthe Republic of The Gambia, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy to brief her about the Climate Change Conference and to seek her office’s support.
We also briefed her on the gains registered by the previous executive (YJAG) and our 2010/11 Action Plan.
The vice president hailed our efforts, promised to support us whenever the need arises and called on us to continue being responsible in our duty to inform and educate the public.
The Minister of Forestry and the Environment, Hon. Jatto Sillah also received us with open arms and contributed immensely to the success of the Climate Change Conference that was held in November 2009.
In September 2010, we also visited Hon. Ousman Sonko, the Minister of Interior in Banjul, to update him on our past activities, aims and objectives and our 3rd anniversary. The visit was aimed at fostering mutual understanding between journalists and the Ministry in charge of internal security in The Gambia.
We have also been holding executive and general meetings in which issues of common concern have been raised and we try to deal with it in a manner that is better for the progress of the association.
I would like to thank Lamin Manga, the Proprietor of Unique FM for giving the association an office space at Unique FM in Bakau where we’ve been holding our general meetings regularly.
We also held a number of football matches, one of which was against the media chiefs, aimed at promoting understanding and cordial relations with our bosses.
Training for affiliate youth organizations
In March 2010, the association conducted a training for the St. Joseph SSS Press Club members on Basic Journalism. It was held at the St. Joseph School hall and was attended by 25 members of their club.
The association also supported the United Guardian Youths for Development (UGYD) during their training for their members including Young Writers club members form various schools. This training was held at the Regional Education Office in Kanifing in May 2011.
The biggest fundraising event held by my executive was in July 2011, when we organized a grand fundraising show with the famous Senegalese artist, Sheikh Faal. This fundraising event is locally called ‘Tana Birr’ in the Wollof parlance and was held at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding.
I am happy to announce that we gathered more than D12, 000 from that event. The treasurer will shed more light on that later in the day when she is giving her financial report before the congress.
The association has also planned to produce a newsletter which was supposed to be launched today as part of the 4th anniversary but due to some technical problems we were not able to do so but we hope to solve those problems and the incoming executive will launch it Inshallah.
The main constraint hindering the implementation of certain activities in YJAG, is finance. We still need more financial support and I would therefore use this opportunity to kindly appeal on behalf of the association, to those here present and to all other institutions, organizations and individuals to kindly support YJAG financially. Pledges are also welcomed.
Ladies and gentlemen
These are the main achievements registered by YJAG during my term as president from September 2009 to date; And to the incoming executive, I would say ‘aspire to acquire what you desire’ in the interest of the association and journalism in general. Be rest assured of my fullest support at all times.
In a nutshell Mr. Chairman, I would like to use this opportunity on behalf of YJAG to thank all those who supported my executive during my tenure in one way or the other.
I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my executive and all members of the association; Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs; YJAG Board chairperson, Amie Bojang-Sisoho and the rest of the board members, all the media chiefs, the GPU, Hon. Jato Sillah, Minister of Forestry and the Environment, Hon. Ousman Sonko, Minister of Interior.
Again I would say a special thank you to Pa Malick Faye, Observer MD, my own boss for supporting and encouraging me throughout my term as president of YJAG.