Twenty-four local entry-level young reporters graduated on April 19 from Insight Training Center following three months of intensive course. Supported by the Public Diplomacy Section of the U.S. Embassy Banjul, the program equipped participants with requisite skills and tools needed to communicate accurately, investigate thoroughly and report the truth, fairly and credibly.
Embassy Banjul’s Public Affairs Officer, Janel Heird, presided over the graduation ceremony and underscored that the pursuit of better skills and improved tradecraft for Gambian journalists cannot be more important and urgent than now.
She remarked: “You can spend an entire lifetime developing your journalistic skills, and I hope you will do just that. The New Gambia and its freer media environment has brought with it both challenges and opportunities for local journalists. The opportunities include the fact that reporters may now play their watchdog roles professionally. Unlike the oppression of the past regime, today there is freedom and great hope. I have observed that self-censorship is gradually fading away and that newspapers are freely publishing editorials critical of the government without facing reprisals. However, there are also challenges, too. The first of this is an increasingly competitive media landscape. Greater media competition means that only the most talented and motivated professionals will be hired as reporters. This will lead to higher standards and better quality reporting in both print and broadcast newsrooms. This means each of you must commit to your own personal and professional capacity development to survive in a thriving, growing, and competitive media industry. Now, there is no choice. Journalists must investigate thoroughly, research completely, and publish news that is truthful and relevant to society. I also urge you to discourage sensationalism and exaggeration in your reporting. There is no need to rush any imbalanced or inaccurate information to the public in a search for headlines. The journalist must be accountable to herself first, and to her audience. She must adhere to the principles of responsible journalism. The media will continue to play a critical role in shaping the democratic path of The Gambia. Our challenge for the government is guarantee in law a free and safe environment for journalists to perform their constitutional duty of keeping society informed and holding the government accountable to its people. The United States Government believes in freedom of speech and of the press as both a universal human right and a catalyst to a well-functioning democracy. All governments have a responsibility to uphold this fundamental freedom.”