SPEECH DELIVERED BY HONOURABLE DEMBA ALI JAWO, MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE
AT THE FORUM ON THE MEDIA REFORM FRAMEWORK OF THE GAMBIA HELD AT OCEAN BAY HOTEL ON THURSDAY 17 AUGUST 2017
Executive Director, MFWA
Representatives, IMS, GAMES
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great honour and pleasure that I join you at this important forum witnessing the launching of “The Media Reform Framework in The Gambia”. This forum, which may be long overdue, is very relevant in this new democratic dispensation in the country. You would agree with me that the role played by the media, as the fourth estate, is very crucial in any political dispensation especially in the promotion of democracy, good governance and freedom of information access. Thus, the media and journalism as a profession could play an effective role in promoting transparency and accountability in governance on behalf of the citizenry.
The strategic media reform framework is a product of a collaborative and participatory process that includes the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI), GPU, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Independent Media Support (IMS) and Gambia Media Support (GAMES). It was facilitated through a 12-member group of local and international media practitioners, legal experts, academics and policy makers among others. The framework is going to be one of the most significant inputs that would guide the media sector reform in The Gambia. Therefore, my ministry highly welcomes this intervention and extends our sincere gratitude and appreciation to the partners; namely MFWA, IMS, GAMES and GPU for this laudable initiative.
Freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights is a cornerstone of a democratic society, both as a fundamental right and as an enabler of all other rights. In exercising these rights, there should not be any bottlenecks especially those systematically designed to limit freedom of expression and access to information by governments and institutions.
Notwithstanding, we, as media practitioners, must be vanguards of freedom of expression and safeguard public interest through dissemination of factual and reliable information. Although in a democracy, free press and freedom of expression is a prerequisite, the role of journalists is integral in providing unhindered access to, and spread of information to all and sundry. Our goal must be to inform, educate and empower the public in a positive way and peaceful manner. To this end, a freer press and professional media supported by stronger institutions and enabling regulatory environment is desirable.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The envisaged strategic framework reflects on key issues ranging from media development, transformation of the State broadcaster, to legal, regulatory and policy reforms. You would no doubt agree with me that since the dawn of the new Gambia, we have been witnessing significant transformation in the relationship between the State and the media. The availability and accessibility of government officials is very progressive and embracing, which is quite different from what obtained in the former regime. However, in order to sustain such cordiality, the media fraternity has to be supportive in combating fake information and what sometimes tantamount to hate speech in the public domain especially through social networks. In this country, we want to see a democratic transition that embraces all our people regardless of region, religion or ethnicity for peaceful coexistence. We believe that the divisive legal, regulatory and policy environment nurtured during the past 22 years of dictatorship could be corrected to promote public cohesion and harmony through a media friendly approach.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Accordingly, I would like to reassure you that the ministry and the government are more willing than ever to partner and work with you in the empowerment of the media, promotion of human rights and press freedom. This is demonstrated by the government through the recent approval by cabinet of the Digital Broadcasting Policy (DBP), which ushered in the liberalization of the television sub-sector. This was followed by several other activities to ensure media reforms and development in the country with the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice and the UN system. This demonstrates the openness and readiness of the ministry to work with all interested parties for a successful and sustainable reform of the media. We believe a multi-faceted approach and cross fertilization of ideas from all players; partners and stakeholders will only enrich our ideas for a better and more inclusive outcome of our reform process.
Finally, I must say that I am pleased and deeply touched by the resolve and dedication shown by GPU and all its partners towards the promotion of media reforms, media development and press freedom in our beloved country, The Gambia. We pray that the Almighty makes these interventions fruitful and worthwhile ventures. I thank you all for your kind attention.