On February 22nd, the European Union and UNESCO held a ceremony at the Gambia National Commission for UNESCO secretariat to deliver media equipment to beneficiary newspapers, the Gambia Press Union, and the University of the Gambia in the framework of an ongoing initiative implemented by UNESCO to reinforce the capacities of Gambian media professionals. This project is part of a wider Governance Programme of 10 million euros (approximately equivalent to 500 million dalasi) financed by the European Union in the country, which includes several components such as: (i) Access to Justice and Legal Education, (ii) Journalism and Media, and (iii) Public Financial Management.
The Journalism and Media of Project of the EU’s Governance Programme is contributing 691,583 euro (approximately equivalent to 35 million dalasi) to the media reform in The Gambia. No other sector than the media has the outreach capacity for reaching decision makers and the general public. The overall objective of this project is therefore to contribute to better democratic governance through improving freedom of the press and the quality of information available to the population.
This project promotes excellence in journalism, and innovative curricula, as supporting journalism education is an important part of developing a free and independent media. The project also reinforces gender equality in the media through the selection of target groups for the training activities, and the development of training curricula and materials. It also directly contribute to enhancing human rights in the country, as the media have tremendous power to influence a nation’s political discourse, and a free and open media is essential to a healthy democracy.
In the Republic of The Gambia, as in many countries around the world, media professionals often lack the necessary resources and capacities to exercise their activities. Difficulty accessing information and lack of equipment and training are among the daily challenges faced by media professionals. This project is therefore addressing some of these issues, namely professional development and training, as well as gender inequality in media, and the economic viability of media houses.
Primary beneficiaries of this project include media houses, newspapers, community radios, the Gambia Press Union, and the University of the Gambia. Through June 2017, capacity building initiatives will occur, as well as training of Gambian security forces on the safety of journalists and freedom of expression to support the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Furthermore, and in light of recent changes in Government, a formal platform for dialogue between media and the Government will be established in order to support the revision of existing regulatory frameworks concerning freedom of expression and access to information.
UNESCO has been identified for the implementation of this project as this UN agency has a neutral mandate to support the fields of communication, media, and journalism, and a longstanding experience in capacity building of media professionals to meet international standards.
EU/UNESCO PRESS RELEASE
The EU representative stressed the following:
“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishment of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”