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GPU Train Community Journalists on Use of Access to Information Law

Aug 4, 2023
By Mammy Saidykhan
A two-day training of community radio journalists on the use of the Access to Information Act, 2021 for news reporting and ensuring transparency in local governance opened in Pakalinding on Friday.
Funded by IFEX, the global network promoting and defending freedom of expression at the tune of $20, 000, the training is part of a 12-months project implemented by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) to “strengthen right of access to information in rural regions and communities in The Gambia”.

The August 4-5 training, which is being conducted in partnership with the Network of Community Radio Broadcasters (NCRG), a GPU affiliate, will equip community journalists with the knowledge and skills required to effectively and efficiently promote access to information, and participatory democracy and ensure transparency and accountability in local governance.
Journalists have a very crucial role to play in the application and implementation of the access to information law, and that is why the GPU seeks to support the process of operationalizing the law by providing training to community radio journalists to know their rights and understand the procedures for accessing information.
“We want you to understand the law and be able to use it as an important tool for everyday news reporting, in your talk shows, current affairs programmes, and also for investigative journalism purposes,” GPU Secretary General, Modou S. Joof, said
“At the end of the training, it is expected that 25 community radio journalists will be well grounded on the Access to Information Act, and will use your platforms to create public awareness on the benefits and use of the legislation,” Joof said.
The Access to Information Act, 2021 grants the citizens, journalists and everyone else the legal right of access to information that the government and private entities keep on behalf of the public.
Bakary S. Dampha, the programme and public relations officer, NCRG, said that it is crucial and timely for community radio broadcasters to understand how to utilise the ATI law for the benefit of grassroots communities.
He said accessing information from local institutions and councils has been challenging for community journalists.
“However, this training will empower us to use the ATI law to request for information and to effectively educate and inform our communities. It provides us access to reliable information from various local government councils,” Dampha said.
“We see this training as an opportunity to equip ourselves with the required knowledge of the provisions of the ATI law and its practical application in our local areas.”
Muhammed B. Sowe, an ATI Trainer, who delivered the keynote statement, said “the access to information law is designed to bring the government closer to the people and for it to earn the trust and confidence of the people by proactively and reactively disclosing public information.”
He said the ATI law also acts as a tool to ensure government officials are held accountable for their use of public funds, their interactions with and the way they handle public information.
“The law significantly facilitates the work of journalists, especially those operating in grassroots communities, as it empowers them to inform the public about the activities of their councils and development projects,” said Sowe, who is also a Senior State Council.
The goal of the project is to strengthen the democratic process in rural regions and rural communities in The Gambia by promoting the right of access to information both in knowledge and practice among community journalists, local government authorities, grassroot civil society organisations, and members of the public.
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