The Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG) on Saturday celebrated its 4th anniversary since establishment in 2007. The event coincided with the association’s 2nd congress at a ceremony held at the KMC multi-purpose hall along Jimpex Road in Kanifing.
The occasion brought together media chiefs; the Minister of Interior, Ousman Sonko and the President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) among other important personalities. The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘The role of journalists in elections’.
In his welcome remarks, Assan Sallah, the outgoing president of YJAG, explained that the theme for this year’s anniversary is indeed timely, as the 2011 presidential election, slated for next month, is fast approaching. He stated that elections are the corner-stone of any democracy and that the media have a vital role to play in informing the public about what the politicians are promising, and to tell the politicians what the ordinary people want, or do not want, as well as ensuring that elections are free and fair.
“The role of the media as the fourth estate in nation building is primarily to give information, to report on events, to give forums for debate and consideration with access to information about political and societal developments, by all groups in society, and to fulfill the role of a watchdog on public affairs.
Such power also brings responsibility with regards to standards, ethics and truth,” Sallah remarked. According to him, even though not many institutions available to offer journalism courses, associations have been born with formidable zeal and determination to enliven the profession and to protect the interest and integrity of the actors in this field, particularly the young ones, on whose shoulders lie the future of this esteemed profession.
Sallah highlighted some of the objectives of the association, which include promoting unity among young journalists in The Gambia, providing capacity building, addressing the welfare of its members, promoting mutual government-media relationship, and complementing the efforts of the GPU in promoting press freedom, among others.
“In an effort to meet these goals, YJAG has made significant strides towards promoting the welfare of young Gambian journalists during my term as president of the association, from September 2009 to September 2011,” he stated.
Bai Emil Touray, president of the GPU, expressed his satisfaction with the outgoing YJAG executive, especially the way they handled the affairs of the association for the past years. “Every organisation has a shortcoming; there is no leader who does not have shortcomings, but the maturity demonstrated by the executive shows that the members of YJAG are mature in the way they are handling issues,” he stated.
According to him, it is always good as a leader to be responsible, noting that members of the association are leaders in their own right and one has to acknowledge that. “Do not in any way try to be engaged in clandestine or guerrilla journalism.
If anyone of you is not happy with the association in particular or even government officials in the way they are handling things, it is your right to express yourself in accordance with the laws of the land,” Touray advised.
He went on: “Depending on how we behave in society and how we conduct ourselves people will either look low upon us or will have enormous respect for us. Therefore it is important we always have self-esteem”.
The GPU president further advised young journalists not to allow anybody to use them as a tool for destruction. He said: “If people have their problems, allow them to fight their own problems. We in the media are here to tell the masses and we should be careful”.
Declaring the YJAG 4th anniversary and second congress open, Ousman Sonko, minister of Interior said: “We are all partners in development and we are all Gambians”. He added that the maintenance of peace and security is a collective responsibility and that there cannot be any meaningful development without peace and security.
“What you are able to do in one hundred years can be destroyed in one hour,” Minister Sonko stated. The minister explained that each and everyone has a role to play and have to contribute immensely their quota towards national development. “We must forget about our personal interest and think of The Gambia first,” he said, adding that anything that comes afterwards will be a bonus.
We must be professional in whatever we do; we must strive to improve ourselves. There are so many clandestine activities going on in this country. People can use you and by the time you realize that you are being used, it will be too late and you start regretting.
The anniversary was followed by a training and congress which saw the election of Modou S Joof of the Voice newspaper as new YJAG president.
NB: Part of this article is contributed by Omar Wally of the Daily Observer.