Workshop for Gambian Journalists Focuses on Election Reporting

Sep 212011

September 21, 2011 -- Twenty Gambian journalists took part in an intensive election reporting workshop offered this month by the International Center for Journalists in collaboration with the Gambia Press Union.

The four-day course, September 20-23, was designed to equip participants with knowledge and skills in reporting on political campaigns, candidates, issues and polling. The participants included print, broadcast and online journalists from public and private media.

The workshop was the first in a series of courses to be offered as part of a 20-month media capacity building program for Gambian media professionals. The program is a partnership that involves ICFJ, GPU and the Foundation for Legal Aid and Research (FLARE), a human rights organization focused on good governance and basic freedoms.

Speaking during an opening ceremony, GPU President Bai Emil Touray said journalists have a great role to play in election coverage, which does not stop at covering elections alone. He said the role includes collection of data on censors, monitoring registration of voters, and covering political campaign activities and election processes.

Touray also said journalists should provide accurate information, adding that publishing otherwise may lead to violence.

Gambia is scheduled to hold a presidential election in November and legislative elections early next year. The workshop is one of two election courses planned for this year to help Gambian journalists provide fair and balanced coverage.

The gathering was also addressed during the opening ceremony by retired justice Almani Taal, president of FLARE; Sahid Yusuf, publisher of MarketPlace Magazine; and ICFJ Country Director Alieu Famara Sagnia.

Taal spoke of the opportunities provided by the world of information technology, with easy access to materials such as mobile phones which complement the work of journalists. He said "there is no easy way to freedom, freedom is never easy, freedom is all about responsibility."

Sagnia said he believed the workshop would contribute to the overall program objective of supporting media organizations in The Gambia by building their capacity and helping to advance the cause of good governance.

The workshop was led by Herb Frazier, a veteran American journalist and trainer, and Mam Sait Ceesay, a veteran Gambian journalist who has served as editor of several publications. Frazier has covered elections in the United States and served as an election reporting trainer in several African countries, including Ghana, South Africa and Zambia.

The 20-month media capacity building program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.