The Gambia is open to a debate on reform of laws on media, which it recognises as critical to economic and political development, The Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Momodou Tangara has said.
Speaking at the five-day media forum and capacity-building event convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Management Development Institute and the Gambian Government, Dr Tangara said the country recognised challenges it faced, including with media, and was committed to implementing change.
Dr Tangara spoke after the forum drew a series of recommendations that called for the reform of the legal environment, capacity-building, and greater networking among journalism schools in the region and the Commonwealth.
“The Government of The Gambia is committed,” Dr Tangara said.
The forum was attended by Information and Communication Infrastructure Minister Alhagie Cham, as well as local and international media, Gambian civil society, government officials, diplomats and communication scholars.
Senior Commonwealth Secretariat officials also spoke at the event, including Director of Political Affairs, Amitav Banerji, who briefed media on the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia in October.
West Africa Adviser Oluwatoyin Job and Head of Africa Ayo Oke also presented at the event, focusing on governance-related issues.
Also this week, a delegation led by Mr Banerji met Gambian Vice-President Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy with whom they discussed CHOGM 2011 as well as Commonwealth values and principles.
During the 1-5 August forum and capacity-building event, Mr Tangara and Mr Cham urged media to show greater responsibility, maturity, objectivity and professionalism, in order to be the genuine voice of the voiceless and a true guarantor of good governance.
In a speech read at the forum on her behalf by Mr Oke, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba told the forum that a vibrant media reflected a functioning democracy and was a mirror of development facilitation, and ultimately a mirror of sustained public dialogue.
She also spoke of the Commonwealth’s values of good democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law. She highlighted that media and government could partner in promoting this agenda.
The Commonwealth Journalists Association, which was represented at the event by UK Chapter President Rita Payne, reached agreements in principle with journalists from Cameroon, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, on opening branches in the three West African countries.
In the meantime, journalism trainers held a second roundtable on establishing a network of media training institutions, improving journalism training and enhanced collaboration. They held their first roundtable in Rwanda in March 2011.