SOS BADJIE-JANNEH urges responsible journalism

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Mrs Fatim Badjie-Janneh, the secretary of state for Communication, Information and Information Technology, has called on journalists to avoid instigating conflicts through irresponsible and sensational reporting. She noted that over the past decades, human rights abuses and conflicts around the world, particularly in Africa, were witnessed, and that this has stifled development and progress. She said that the media, at one point, was accused of fueling these conflicts, with a classic example being the genocide in Rwanda.
According to her, it is time now for journalists to negate this stigma and positively contribute to peace building, conflict prevention, peacekeeping and promotion of human rights.  

SoS Badjie-Janneh made these remarks yesterday, while presiding over the open of a three-day sub-regional workshop on the ‘role of journalists in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and the promotion of human rights,’ at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, organised by the Gambia Press Union (GPU), in collaboration with the Capacity Building Project of the West African journalists Association (CBP-WAJA), with the support of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

Funded by the African Capacity Building Foundation, the training which aims at building journalists’ awareness on their role in the promotion of peace and human rights;improving journalists’ understanding of their role in the preservation of peace; improving and broadening the understanding and perspectives of journalists’ on human rights and peace issues and drawing up a journalists’ code of good conduct for peace reporting, brought together 30 working journalists with several years of practice, interested in conflict reporting and human rights, from the fifteen ECOWAS member countries and the Republic of Mauritania.

For SoS Badjie-Janneh, the dissemination of information and news should avoid media reporting that may sow seeds of discord which fertilizes the ugly  human catastrophe called conflict; she added that conflicts have brought backwardness, destruction and retrogression to affected nations and their social fabrics, like in Rwanda, Darfur, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kashmir, Palestine and others.  Some of these nations, she said, were plunged into conflicts triggered by politics, social tensions, racial hatred, ethnic cleansing and media reporting that incites hatred and violence. She noted that the media, many a time, had been accused of instigating conflicts through irresponsible and sensational reporting, under the guise of press freedom.

The Communication, Information and Information Technology secretary of state further reminded journalists that responsible reporting, responsible journalism, prudent judgment and sensitivity to social justice, social coherence and stability should be the balancing probabilities of any responsible journalist or reporter. "Your role as journalists is very crucial in developing and maintaining a peaceful and conflict free nation where human rights and press freedom are promoted and upheld to the fullest. Journalists should promote and treasure reporting about peace and how it contributes to development and progress in countries and show people the reward for peace and stability. Documentaries and reports on wars, conflicts, post-conflicts and the destruction and retrogression they brought to nations and communities have to be exposed to people by all means.This will create awareness that would make people embrace peace and thus prevent conflicts. Journalist and the media should promote peaceful activities, social cohesion, initiatives and events and actions that could lead to peace building and conflict prevention.  

Engaging politicians, security personnel and individuals through education and sensitisation campaigns on human rights, conflicts prevention and peace building through the media can become a positive influence.  Journalists identifying the causes of conflicts, identifying conflict resolutions and prevention measures can help a long way," she advised.  

She then reiterated that the government of The Gambia through her Department of State and under the able leadership of President Jammeh, recognised the importance and relevance of journalists to nation building as well as the role the media play in nurturing peace, security and stability, and their contribution to the socio-economic advancement of the country.  This, she added, has made the government of The Gambia to encourage and promote the establishment of media houses under the cardinal principle of responsible, factual and balanced reporting. She assured of an improved cordial relationship between the media and the state.

For her part, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, president of the Gambia Press Union and 2nd Vice President of WAJA, expressed delight that the GPU should partner with WAJA to organize a sub-regional activity that seeks to put journalism and the media at the heart of debates on fostering peace and conflict prevention with a particular emphasis on human rights.

According to her, journalists are key stakeholders in building conflict free zones, preserving the peace and promoting peaceful initiatives and upholding the principles of human rights as enshrined in our national constitutions and international human rights instruments that our governments are signatories to.

"We therefore expect outcomes such as a code of conduct for peace reporting, a better understanding of sources of conflicts, conflict prevention measures, human rights instruments, the ECOWAS courts, to be born out of the crux of the debates and discussions," she said. She then expressed hope that in this melting pot of practitioners from all over the region, there would be an exchange of wisdom, which in turn will enable all to at least learn something new and decide on a new or different approach towards achieving the goals to inform, educate and speak the truth. She then urged participants to actively participate in the sessions.  

Ibrahim Famakan Coulibally, the president of WAJA, implored participants to take the training seriously and assured them of his organisation’s readiness to train journalists. According to him, the role of journalists is very crucial to developing and maintaining a peaceful and conflict free nation, where human rights and press freedom are respected.
He equally lauded the theme, describing it as vital to the career of the journalist.

Author: by Alhagie Jobe