Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Welcome Remarks by Mr. Modou S. Joof, President of YJAG

L-R: Mr. Cherno Jallow, Veteran journalist & Media Consultant, YJAG President Mr. Joof & GPU Vice President, Baboucarr Ceesay: PHOTO/Omar Wally
On the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of the association @ the Secretariat of the Gambia Press Union, William Dixon Colley Memorial Hall, Fajara – Sunday 16th September, 2012 

Good Morning,

Representatives of the executive arm of Government
Representatives of diplomatic missions  
Board Members and Executive Committee of YJAG
Media Chiefs
Representative of ICFJ
Executive Director GPU
Representative of GPU Executive Committee
Representatives of media organisations
YJAG Members and representatives of press clubs
 I welcome you all to this important event being the 5th Year anniversary of the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG). 

As you may be aware, YJAG, a charitable organisation, was formed in on 16 September, 2007 by young journalists in the country who were determined to promote unity among their colleagues; to provide capacity building to its members to better enhance the practice of journalism; to advocate for better pay and better working conditions of young journalists; and to complement the efforts of its parent body, the Gambia Press Union, in promoting and defending press freedom and free expression in the country.

Legally registered with the Attorney General’s Chambers, the association is also tasked with the responsibility to facilitate the recruitment of aspiring journalist into the profession.

The annual anniversary gives us the opportunity to reflect on our successes, the challenges and to discuss ways of address such challenges.      

As usual, when we celebrate our anniversary, it is held with a line-up of activities, including training. The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Promoting Professionalism Through Capacity Building”. 

We strongly believe that trainings can play a great role in promoting good journalism and respect for the principles that goes with it. Even though there is not a journalism institute, YJAG was established with the 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 these esteemed profession.

And in accordance with the theme, we will be holding a training on “Ethics of journalism” with presentations on “Ethics of child reporting, The Revised GPU Code of Conduct on Child Reportage, Case studies of ethical violations in Gambian media relating to reporting on children” – to be delivered by Mr. Njundu Drammeh – National Coordinator Child Protection Alliance (CPA) and YJAG Board Chairperson.

Another presentation on the Code of Conduct for Journalists; The role of ethics in journalism – why ethics matter, Case studies of ethical violations across media platforms around the world” will be delivered by Mr. Cherno Jallow, veteran journalist and consultant.  

We will also be discussing the Activity and Financial Reports of the Association as of September 2011.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Since its establishment, YJAG has contributed tremendously to the development of the media in Gambia, especially on news reportage and capacity building of members.

This is manifested by the progress made by individual members who are holding key decision-making positions across media platforms in the country.

In 2010 Saikou Jammeh was appointed the editor-in-chief of The Daily News newspaper. The same year YJAG founding members Baboucarr Senghore and Nfamara Jawneh were appointed by The Point Newspaper as editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief respectively.

Former YJAG President Assan Sallah, Demba Kandeh, (Mariam Saine), Lamin Jahateh, Mamadou Edrisa Njie, and Modou S. Joof , have all been promoted to the positions of sub-editor, and news editor at the Daily Observer, Today newspaper, the MarketPlace Business, and News & Report Magazine respectively.

Other members of YJAG are also holding senior positions both in print and electronic media. This improvement is a major achievement to the Association. It shows the level confidence media owners have in us and the level of hard work and professionalism attained by our members.

It also shows the media industry in the Gambia is at a crucial a crucial cross-roads as the young ones are slowly taking over from the old.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Over the past five years, and with little resources, YJAG ensured it remain true to its objective of building the capacity of members. It conducted a series of programmes, including trainings on Basic writing and reporting skills; media laws; climate change; and election reporting.

It also conducted a series of trainings on Basic journalism for its associated Press Clubs at the Gambia College, Nusrat, St. Augustine, Kotou, and Armitage Senior Secondary Schools.

It is also customary that every executive tour media houses in the country to discuss with media chiefs about the plight of young journalists.

During these tours media chiefs are urged to improve the salaries of staff; improve rates for stories from freelancers and to provide in-house trainings for young journalists.

We believe such motivational actions will enable young journalists to carry out their duties professionally and with determination. Some media houses have responded positively to these calls and we commend them for that. However, we found out that there are others still lagging behind. The rates offered to freelancers by some media houses are far below the rates set by the Gambia Press Union.    

We are very much concerned that young journalists continue to work under poor conditions, poorly equipped and poorly paid with little or no motivation. To us, the saying that “journalism is not a money making profession” is now a used and over used cliché that has already lost its taste.

We strongly believe that this profession of ours which is noble should be able to earn journalists a decent life including the young ones. So we would like to use this occasion to once again urge media owners to address these issues and make the welfare of young journalists a top priority because we are the life blood of the Gambian media.  

This will ensure the attainment of more vibrant media as we all know that YJAG can be a nursery bed for the proper germination of the seeds of journalism in the country.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Despite the successes registered by the Association in the last five years, it continues to face enormous challenges in terms of implementing its programmes. This is mainly due to limited financial resources. YJAG, as a charitable organisation has no major donor.  

The Association survives on membership contributions, fundraising events and financial support from a few individuals and companies. The current executive saw the need to take a new approach to gather funds for its activities by submitting two project proposals to the U.S Embassy Democracy and Human Rights Funds and the British High Commission Bilateral Fund. 

Since we are yet to get a reply for both proposals we are keeping our fingers crossed.
Nonetheless, we still need more financial support and I would therefore use this opportunity to kindly appeal on behalf of the association donors, for public and private sector and individuals to support YJAG for it to continue the good cause it started five years ago.  
We have a host of trainings in our 2012/13 action plan yet to be implemented. These include: Leadership: Public speaking, time management, fundraising and project proposal writing; Training on ICT, blogging, using the social media innovatively, and internet research; Women’s Health and Rights Reporting; and Training on freedom of expression and information; and the publication of the maiden edition of our newsletter.
The newsletter was planned for launch today, however, the slow process of acquiring an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) from the National Library, it was only approved on Friday September 14, 2012.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
In as much as we are very much concerned with the plight of young journalists in the country, YJAG is worried about the fate of its members at Taranga FM which has been shut down. 

We feared that the move does not only deprive the public of their right to know but as well affect our members who are currently without a job. Yesterday, there were reports that The Daily News and The Standard Newspapers have been ordered to cease operations, if confirmed, this will further put our members working with these publications at the risk of being jobless.  

In these regard, we would like to use this occasion to call on the authorities concerned to allow Taranga FM to resume operation, and as well the two newspapers.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
I would like to conclude by thanking the representatives of Government, Diplomatic missions, media chiefs, and the Gambia Press Union. YJAG is indeed grateful for your support over the past five years. 

I would also like to thank all companies and individuals who have supported YJAG in past especially the Proprietor of Unique FM, Mr. Lamin Manga whose office space we have been using since 2010.

I would also like to thank the previous board of advisers of YJAG and as well once again thank the new board inaugurated in July 2012 for accepting to serve the association. 

Thank you for your attention.

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