Saturday, 21 September 2013

YJAG 6th Anniversary and 3rd Congress: The President's Welcome Remarks

YJAG is seriously concerned about the closure of media houses, the job losses it caused to the young journalists and the threat it poses to the future of journalism in The Gambia, says YJAG President Modou S. Joof
Welcome Remarks by Mr. Modou S. Joof, President of Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG), on the occasion of the 6th Anniversary of and 3rd congress of the association – held at the Secretariat of The Gambia Press Union, Fajara – Saturday 21st September, 2013 - Delivered @10am

Good Morning,

Representatives of Government
Board Members and Executive Committee of YJAG
Media Chiefs
Executive Director GPU 
Representative of GPU Executive Committee
YJAG Members and representatives of press clubs
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
I welcome you all to this important event being the 6th anniversary and 3rd congress of the Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG). 

As you may be aware, YJAG, a charitable organisation, was founded on 16 September, 2007 by young journalists in the country who were and are still determined to promote unity among their colleagues; to provide capacity building to 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.

The association is also tasked with the responsibility of facilitating 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 addressing such challenges – while today’s congress will allow for a democratic process of electing a new leadership that will run the affairs of YJAG for the next two years.       

Since its establishment, YJAG has contributed tremendously to the development of the media in Gambia, especially 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.

This shows that the Gambian media especially the print is at crucial cross-roads as the young ones are slowly taking up more responsibilities from their elders - to inform and educate Gambians and satisfy the public’s right to know.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
However, this progress is threatened by a long standing challenge being the arbitrary closure of media houses in the country. Hence, the theme of this august gathering “Towards greater press freedom and job security for young journalists in The Gambia” could not have come at a better time.

YJAG is seriously concerned about the closure of media houses, the job losses it caused to the young journalists and the threat it poses to the future of journalism in The Gambia.

Following the closure of Taranga FM (radio), The Daily News and The Standard newspapers in August and September 2012, many young journalists have been without jobs for more than one year.

For instance, at The Standard newspaper where up to 51 people were employed most of them young journalists; only 7 have managed to secure jobs within the media since the closure of the paper.  

At The Daily News where 14 young journalists were employed, only one managed to secure a job since the closure of the paper one year-on.

What we are witnessing is that the arbitrary shutdown of media houses defeat the purpose of press freedom, free expression, the desire to establish a more vibrant and independent media.

And to say that young journalists are the nursery bed for the proper germination of the seeds of journalism in The Gambia, becomes a farce in a situation where two or three people can walk into a newspaper or radio and ordered for a shutdown without taking into consideration the internationally accepted three part test.

Under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, restrictions to free expression are only permissible if: Provided by law, Necessary in a democratic society, and Pursue a legitimate aim - (the three part test).

Therefore, we will once again use this platform to reiterate our calls for the Government of The Gambia to reopen these media houses in the interest of press freedom, freedom of expression, the public’s right to know, job opportunities for the young, and the establishment of a democratic society.  

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Since my statement is meant to be brief as we have a lot of work ahead, including a constitutional review, presenting of activity and financial reports and an election…

I want to take this opportunity to thank individuals and institutions that have supported YJAG from 2011 to 2013, especially Mr. Lamin Manga, the Proprietor of Unique FM, who continues to offer YJAG space at Unique FM for our executive and general meetings; Mr Baboucarr Cham of City Limit Radio; Veteran journalist and media consultant Mr. Cherno Jallow; DJ Pisces and the One Force Alliance; the Taiwan Embassy in Banjul; the GPU, the YJAG Board of Advisers; Media Chiefs; GAMBEGA Limited and all those who have supported the association since inception. 

And for those of you who are present here, I thank you for your attention. Thank You!        

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