Gambia: ARTICLE 19 seeks to re-establish trust between Journalists, Security forces

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - “It is important to underscore the need to re-establish trust and professional working relationships between security forces and the media in The Gambia,” the words of Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director, Article 19 West and Central Africa, at the closing ceremony Monday of the training session for the second batch of members of the Gambian security forces on "freedom of expression and the safety of journalists”.

Quoting organizers, PANA reported that the training is aim at improving the capacities of security forces in The Gambia to guarantee freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in the context of the implementation of the UN plan of action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, endorsed in April 2012 by the Chief Executive Boards of all UN bodies.

PANA report that the training was organized by ARTICLE 19, which is funded by the European Union to enhance human rights in the tiny West African country.

According to Senghore, President Adama Barrow’s government has reiterated the importance of the freedom of expression and access to information in the democratic transition and for good governance.

She pointed out that the crucial obstacle to the development and fostering of freedom of expression within the country included tensions between local journalists and security forces, saying that law enforcement officers are usually unfamiliar with the right to freedom of expression principles and how to deal with journalists in a manner that respects freedom of the press and allow them access to public interest information.

She noted that stakeholders are also often not equipped to prevent excessive use of force, criminally or politically motivated attacks against journalists by security agents and violence.

"Extremist groups and security forces should understand the importance of establishing a good level of communication with the media or the advantages of constructing professional relationships with journalists", she warned.

She added that the plan is a unique mechanism and the first attempt to systematically bring together all stakeholders, including the UN system, member states, international and regional organizations, the academia and the media itself to solve the challenges of safety of journalists and combating impunity at the global, regional and national levels.

She said ARTICLE 19 has been working on freedom of expression issues in the Gambia for more than a decade.

ARTICLE 19 West and Central Africa says it is working to protect journalists and human rights defenders and ensure an end to impunity and corruption, adding that the protection of journalists, media law reforms and the development of freedom of information laws are key to creating more accountable governments.

Leszek Jeremy, UNESCO regional officer for West Africa, said promoting the safety of journalists and combating the impunity of those who attack them are central elements of UNESCO’s action to support press freedom across all media platforms no matter where they come from, indicating that the acquisition and transmission of knowledge are essential tasks for all those fighting for freedom of expression and the right to information.

“Therefore, defending freedom of expression and its corollaries throughout the world is one of UNESCO’s main missions,” he said.

He said that the strengthening of local media makes a significant contribution to the efforts of peace building, democracy and good governance although media professionals face many obstacles in the exercise of their duties.

"The struggle is far from being won and we must persevere," added Jeremy.

Also speaking, Ricardo Gonzales, Head of protection at ARTICLE 19, urged the participants to utilize the knowledge gained from the training and make the best use of it in other to maintain good relationship between the security forces and the media.

In her reaction, Mary Anne Ndiaye, a participant, said that over the years, the Gambian media have been sidelined, mistreated and abused with the security personnel being accused of so many excesses.

According to her, the training has created faster ways to eradicate unprofessionalism in both the security and media fields. "We say no more to lack of partnership, cooperation and mistrust between the media and security forces.

“We have learnt new ways of promoting good and professional relationships between security forces and journalists in order to help people during events such as natural disasters, and to help prevent and raise awareness of criminal activities and how to promote empowerment of women through reinforcing the capacities of women security officers which is vital for peace building.”
-0- PANA MSS/VAO 12June2017

12 june 2017 13:51:58

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