By Kebba Jeffang
The executive members of the Young Journalists Association of the Gambia (YJAG) on Tuesday 23rd September, 2014 paid a courtesy call on Madam Aja Isatou Njie Saidy, the vice president of the Republic of the Gambia at State House to discuss the media’s role in promoting agricultural development for food self sufficiency.
This visit is conducted ahead of the 7th year anniversary of YJAGs existence as a media organisation that is due to be celebrated on Saturday, 27th September, 2014.
In his introductory remarks, Mr. Sulayman Ceesay, the Secretary General of YJAG informed the gathering about the genesis of the association. He said YJAG is up to celebrating its seventh year anniversary in day’s time. He said they are an independent media organisation with the vision of protecting young media personnel, providing capacity building training for young journalists as well as grooming young aspiring journalists to report on relevant issues in a more professional and responsible manner.
He said YJAG this year would be celebrating its anniversary on the Theme: “The Role of The Media in Promoting Agricultural Development for Food Self Sufficiency.” He expressed that as journalists, they are ready to promote the agricultural development in any way that can serve as leverage in improving food security in the country. He pointed out that the dissemination of relevant, quality and timely information on new techniques and other developments are crucial and that is the fundamental role of a journalist.
Mr. Nfamara Jawneh, the President of YJAG expressed gratitude and appreciation to the Vice President. He described it as another big achievement for YJAG. He recalled that this is the second time YJAG has been meeting the Vice President to discuss pertinent issues. He added that the theme is chosen as a way of contributing to national development. He said their role as journalists is to inform the public and assured that they would be doing their utmost best in capturing quality information and disseminate it to the public.
The YJAG President added that though they want to contribute to national development through agriculture, but their endeavours have been overshadowed by constraints.
“We would have done better had it been there is an availability of resources especially finance. There are areas in our efforts that we always want to work on but due to limited financial resources, they could not be implemented. Another constraint the young people have is the media law. Considering the harsh media law on the ground, some of their efforts have been underpinned. In grooming our membership at the schools’ press clubs, many students have the zeal to become journalists but due to the media laws, they lost the courage,” said Jawneh. He called on the government through the Vice President to provide friendly media laws for journalists especially the young ones.
Mr. Malick Jones, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information in responding to the request made by YJAG officials, said the government has been doing a lot for the media of the country especially with the introduction of a Journalism course at the University of the Gambia. He opined that this would expose so many young journalists to quality training thus guide them in good writing skills that can save one from having problem with the law.
He said in as much as the constitution has clearly provided for the freedom of the media, he said there are other laws in the country that guide the media and journalists. He said journalists should read and understand those laws so that they can save themselves from sedition and libel offences. He said they are also promoting and encouraging journalists to better equip themselves in the area of ICT.
DPS Jones pointed out that as a ministry; they monitor every newspaper on a daily basis to see how they are operating.
For her part, Madam Njie Saidy, the VP said the Gambia has a unique Constitution that is very democratic. She said the provisions of the 1997 Constitution is far progressive than the 1970 one. She said journalists should know the laws so as to be protected from its traps. She pointed out that the laws are purposely there to protect people but not to pose a threat. She called for developmental journalism and said journalists should not only resort to sensational journalism while stressing that irresponsible journalism should be avoided because it leads to instability.
In dilating on the theme of this year’s YJAG anniversary, Madam Njie Saidy shows appreciation to the theme. She said as young people in the media, the focus should be put in to agriculture as the backbone of the country’s economy. She assured that the government through the Ministry of Agriculture would partner with YJAG in celebrating the day. She said the ministry would help the organisation in terms of technical support.
The event at the State House was attended by senior security officers, the permanent secretaries and other officials.