Delivered at the GPU congress, GTMI Kanifing, 26/06/2011.
By Madi M.k.Ceesay: CEO Media Agenda & Daily News.
Gambia Press Union (GPU) was founded in 1978 by a group of private journalists under the leadership of the veteran Gambian journalist and publisher, the late Mr. W. Dixon Colley.
The union has grown since then to where we are today. GPU has numbered more than a few hundred registered members many of whom are freelance journalists. Others work for both the print and electronic media including some in government service.
The GPU is a legally registered union that is dedicated not only to press freedom and media development, but also to the development of the country in general, and has under its umbrella The Association of Health Journalists, The young journalist in the media, the Sport journalist, and a host of other group of journalists practicing in the country.
GPU aims to be a champion of press freedom and the right of journalists to practice their profession in The Gambia. To that end it has taken issues with the government of the day in both the first and the second republics and is particularly concerned about the anti-press legislation programme of the present government. Through mass sensitisation campaigns and court action, it has succeeded in having the government repeal the Media Commission Act with its draconian provisions and repressive measures.
Currently, the union is seeking to bring about further reforms in the law, particularly the recently introduced Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005, the Newspaper (Amendment) Act 2004 and Decree Numbers 70 and 71. The GPU has also organized and co-organized conferences and workshops on press freedom, freedom of expression, democracy and development.
Ø The most outstanding achievement that GPU as an organization is proud of; is the maintenance of its democracy. Since 1978 when it was founded there were regular congress where members take major decision, as who should lead them.
Ø Succeeded in having the government repeal the Media Commission Act with its draconian provisions and repressive measures.
Ø Build capacities of several journalists (GAMES) Various disciplines: Investigative reporting; photography; lay outing; and so on
Ø Currently the GAMES project is about to complete with a high level programme in journalism.
Ø The GPU is able to come up with income generating project likes printing press. First in 2007. Where a printing press was secured to help meet some expenditures.
Ø Recently another printing press is available and put at the disposal of the GPU to help generate some funds in other to further build capacities of its members.
Ø GAMPRINT is another project in place; this project is able to bring down cost of newsprint.
Ø GPU whose members use to meet in the BBC hall before moving to the offices of the Point newspaper has for several years got itself a functional secretariat. Fist at Fajara, then Serekunda and along Garga Jahumpa road new town Bakau.
Ø The union successfully conducted a media observation the 2006, presidential elections.
Ø We are also able to sit on the highest decision making body of the media in 2007/8/9/10. IFJ Executive member, FAJ Executive member and Second vice president WAJA respectively.
Ø GPU is also among its success was able to maintain its unity. It refuses to be divided by forces anti-media progress. As has happen to other unions like GAMSU. That is an admirable success.
These are all success the Gambia Press Union was able to attain in the immediate past.
v The Gambia Press Union had always stood firm its ground and never allows to be derailed from her track since 1978. The GPU has and continuous to stand for the welfare of its membership and beyond.
v Once a journalist, and is facing difficulties, whether you a card holder or not, whether one is a Gambian or not, once you are a journalist GPU always play its role in the defense of the journalist and the profession.
v GPU, was never involve in party politics, nor does the GPU involves itself in unlawful practices.
v So it’s true that GPU kept its agenda relevant.
I am asked to talk on the failures and successes of our dear union. It was all not successes but we failed in some areas. It is only fair that where we fail is also highlighted.
Ø The fact that it is seven years down the line we are not able to make a head way into uncovering the identities of the killers of our colleague, late DEYDA HYDARA. We should be able to use our investigative skills as journalist and uncover these cowards. Is a failure.
Ø The same goes for Chief Ebrima Manneh. Both colleagues are gone and we cannot do anything about it.
Ø As a union we also fail to set up a self regulatory body to take care of our humanely mistakes. It’s long overdue and something needs to be done about that, the sooner the better.
Another area we fail is influencing a better media / government relationship, after all efforts. That success cannot be achieved by one party, it’s a dual responsibility.