UNESCO’s sustained support to media development in the Gambia: Now contributing to the New Media reform

“Fundamental rights, enablers of other rights and exercising these rights, should not have any bottle necks especially those systematically designed to limit freedom of expression by government institutions,” underscored Demba A. Jawo, Minister of Communication and Information Infrastructure of the Republic of the Gambia at the Forum held on 17 August 2017 in Banjul for the official launch of a comprehensive Media reform Framework.

Further to 22 years of autocratic ruling, the Gambia is undergoing a democratic transition which includes several reforms. In support to this process, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Ministry of Communication and Information Infrastructure partnered with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the International Media Support (IMS) and the Gambia Media Support (GAMES) to develop a comprehensive Media Reform Framework ensuring media development in The Gambia.

The framework was developed by a 12 member experts group of national and international Media Practitioners, academics and policy makers who looked at key issues such as legal and policy reforms, media capacity building, institutional development of local actors and media, among others. Through a series of workshops and consultations, the expert group came up with a comprehensive strategic framework intending to guide the media sector reform process.

Described by the Minister as one of the most significant inputs to the media reform, the purpose of the strategic document is to guarantee that urgent development of the media sector is comprehensive, sustainable and with a long-term perspective and will guide interventions by actors and partners who seek to contribute to the strengthening of the Gambia media sector at various levels and in various ways.

To ensure that the document is in line with international standards and promotes freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UNESCO Dakar Office was invited to participate to the final expert meeting from 14 to 16 August 2017 to provide technical support. This support is part of a larger work undertaken by UNESCO with the view to contribute to the development of free and pluralistic and independent media in the Gambia. Indeed, UNESCO has been supporting the implementation of the “Journalism and Media” project funded by the European Union Governance Programme, and launched in October 2016. The overall objective of this project, is to contribute to better democratic governance in the Gambia through the improvement of freedom of the press and the quality of information available to the population. Hence, UNESCO has organized series of trainings for media professionals to provide them with the necessary skills, especially on reporting on sustainable development, human rights, global citizenship, and gender issues, to efficiently contribute to the free flow of information and ideas crucial to the establishment of democracy and sustainable development.

The strategic document which focuses on three key thematic areas, namely, legal and policy reforms, capacity development and institutional strengthening, has been officially lauched on 17 August 2017 by The Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Ministry of Communication and Infrastructure, during a forum attended by representatives from UNESCO, ECOWAS, EU, UNDP, UN, and MLDI who delivered messages of support.