Tuesday, October 25, 2011

YJAG ACTIVITY REPORT 2009-2011

Prepared and presented by Mr Modou S. Joof, YJAG Assistant Secretary General, @ the 4th Anniversary and Congress of YJAG on October 22, 2011 @ the Kanifing Municipal Council Multipurpose Complex, Jimpex Road, Kanifing

Modou S. Joof
The outgoing executive came into being on September 16, 2009 during the first Congress of the Young Journalist Association of The Gambia (YJAG).

After observing democracy, the new executive continues to work under the action plan of the former executive. One of the activities it held in November 2009 was a “Climate Change Conference” funded by the World Wildlife Fund, through the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment.

The conference was designed to increase the knowledge of young journalists on climate change and its effects on the environment and the lives of the people. We believe that journalists can only report accurately topical issues of global concern when they are better understood.
With the climate change summit to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark a month later, the conference facilitated the creation of an organisation of youth groups across the country to converge on a follow-up conference: “A national consultative workshop on youth engagement on climate change” on December 3, 2010 and outlined issues of common concern for The Gambia youth delegation to present at the summit.   


Call on media chiefs
Since then, the executive and the members of YJAG have undertaken a series of activities in line with the 2010/11 action plan. The first being a conducted media tour by the executive aimed at discussing the plight of young journalists in the print media.
During the tour in January this year, we visited and discussed with the Managing Editor of Today newspaper, the Publisher and Proprietor of the Daily News, Managing Editor of Foroyaa newspaper, the Managing Director of Daily Observer, the Editor-In-Chief of The Voice newspaper, the Publisher and Proprietor of The Gambia News and Report Magazine, the Director of The Point, the Managing Director of Digest Publication, and the Director of Information Services, Gambia Info.
There were calls on media chiefs to provide in-house trainings for young journalists, increase remunerations of staff; with specific focus on freelancers in order to enable them deliver in their news rooms as expected.
All media chiefs promised to pay heed to our call and in fact, we are glad to note that there have been remarkable improvements in some media houses since, but we still urge them to step up efforts in ensuring the welfare of young journalists is well taken care of.
The reaction we get from them was that YJAG can be a nursery bed for the proper germination of the seeds of journalism in The Gambia. The plight of young journalist is an important issue. It is not only about having the right to express yourself freely, the profession should also earn you a decent life, we were told.
It was also admitted that young journalists are the life blood of every newspaper; however, media chiefs lamented the cost of running a newspaper, saying equipments are expensive and this can cut down earnings. Nonetheless, they promise to support the association to the fullest.

Training on media laws
“Understanding Media Laws in The Gambia” was the theme of a one-day training programme for Young Journalists organised by YJAG on February 9, 2010.
The training, funded solely by YJAG and held at the Joint Officers Mess in Kotu brought together 40 young journalists including affiliate members of writers clubs in various schools in the country.
It was aimed at building the capacity of our members to better execute their duties in conformity with the Laws of the land. It also gave them the opportunity to broaden their horizon on media laws in the country and not only how to observe these laws but also how to avoid becoming a victim of these laws apparently designed to stifle press freedom and free expression.
Presentations on the topic were delivered by Dr. Henry Carrol, Mr Sam Sarr, Managing editor Foroyaa newspaper, and Lawyer Edu Gomez, now Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who made a pledge of D10, 000 to YJAG.  
It is worth noting that more than one year on, the promise is still in the pipeline, so for the benefit of our members who think it has went to the pockets of the executive that is not the case.

Gambia College press club trains members
With the support of YJAG, The Gambia College Press Club (GCPC) held a day long training session on “Basic Journalism” for its members in March 2010 at the Brikama Campus.
The GCPC contacted YJAG to assist in what the club’s president, Mr Ebrima Bah, called the need “to recruit students in the press and build their capacity through training” in order to better enhance their day-to-day work as college press corps.
YJAG delegated three of its executive committee members, Assan Sallah (President), Aminata Sanneh (1st Vice President) and Mamadou Edrisa Njie (2nd Vice President) to present papers on Basic Writing Skills or Techniques in News Writing, Interview Techniques, News Gathering and Code of Ethics.

Breaking provincial boundaries
In May 2010, 20 YJAG members embark on a provincial tour of the country in a hectic but thrilling journey in which it held series of meetings with Community Radio Stations and Senior Secondary Schools.
The tour was intended to help young journalists familiarize themselves with not only their community but the wider parts of the country. It is widely believed that a good journalist must know his or her community in order to effectively carrying out his/her duty to inform, educate and entertain, and must importantly, satisfying the public’s right to know. So YJAG deem it fit to take to provinces.
The three-day tour took the team to the historical site of Fort Bullen in Barra, Armitage Senior Secondary and another historical site, the Underground Slave House in Jangjangbureh with all the mystery surrounding it, Radio Gambia, Unique FM and Paradise FM (all in Basse), and the Brikamaba Community Radio Station.
The tour was also meant to expand membership of the association and its activities by inviting young reporters in various Radio Stations and would-be reporters from Senior Schools to join YJAG.  

Courtesy calls to government officials
Earlier on, in November 2009, the executive paid a courtesy call to the Vice President of The Gambia and Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy to brief her about the Climate Change Conference and to seek her office support.
We also brief her on the gains registered by the previous executive (YJAG) and our 2010/11 Action Plan. She hailed our efforts, promised to support us whenever the need arises and called on us to continue being responsible journalists.
The Minister of Forestry, Hon Jatto Sillah also received us with open arms and contributed immensely to the success of the Climate Change Conference that was held in November 2009.
In September 2011, we also visited the Minister of Interior in Banjul, to update the Minister on our past activities, aims and objectives and Today’s anniversary. The visit was aimed at fostering mutual understanding between journalists and the Ministry in charge of internal security in The Gambia.  This was also meant to discuss the issue of safety and security of journalists, especially YJAG Members. The Minister assured that the harassment of journalists is now history and that his ministry would do everything possible to maintain the status quo.

Saints press corps
On 18th December 2010, YJAG facilitate a one-day joint training for the press clubs of St Augustine and St Joseph Senior Secondary schools in Banjul. The training, organised by the two press clubs was intended to introduce journalism to the students. Various topics were discussed, including news gathering, news sources, ethics, basic writing skills and society’s misconceptions about the noble profession.

GPU Triennial Congress
On June 26, during the triennial congress of The Gambia Press Union, YJAG Treasures, Haddija Jawara was elected unopposed as GPU Treasurer. Her election by the general membership of the Union manifests the trust and confidence bestowed on her as a committed member, who has served both YJAG and the GPU relentlessly.
The issue of YJAG feared being used to undermine the activities or existence of the Union was also raised and dismissed at the GPU Congress.  
Allegations by the ex-Secretary General and now President of the GPU, Bai Emil Touray that “YJAG was seen to be undermining the GPU because its former executive has written to the West African Journalists Association, WAJA and the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ seeking affiliation when they have not done so with the GPU”, were, however refuted by YJAG’s former President, Nfamara Jawneh, who stressed that he “have never written to any international body seeking affiliation, and do not know anyone in the former executive who has done so.”
Once again, YJAG stood by the words of its former president that “YJAG has never been used, no one has attempted it before and anyone who does will fail.”

Fundraising
 At a time when donors and philanthropists became rather more cautious on their spending or a little bit reluctant to support good causes, YJAG thought it timely to embark on a fundraising exercise. With a July 1, 2011 event yielding close to D9000, meant to fund other activities in the welfare of our members.  

Suspension of Mamadou Edrisa Njie
The GPU on September 8, 2011 took a decision at executive level to suspend indefinitely, YJAG’s 2nd Vice President, Mr Mamadou Edrisa Njie, following Mr Njie’s alleged attempted assault on Mr Aloa Ahmed Alota, the GPU executive director a day earlier at the GPU secretariat in Bakau.
Mr Njie received a letter confirming his suspension on 13th September, after he spent 24 hours in detention at the Bakau police station. He was also banned from entering the Union’s secretariat, not take part in any GPU related activity. His participation in the GPU/Article19 West Africa - European Union-funded training for journalists on “International Standards on Freedom of Expression” was also revoked by the GPU executive committee.
YJAG was among the many who have urged Mr Alota to withdraw the case, and it has since been withdrawn, however, YJAG did protest against the heavy measures handed its member, who happens to be one of the most, if not the most active member of the union.   

Events YJAG participated
From 8-9 June 2011, YJAG members, Lamin Jahateh and Haddy Gaye took part in a “Young Gambian Leaders Forum” organised by the American Embassy in Banjul. The event was a follow-up to the 2010 dialogue between the US President, Barack Obama and Young African Leaders in the US capital, Washington District of Colombia (DC).
YJAG Treasurer, Haddija Jawara and Mariatou Jabang also participated in Youth Ambassadors of Peace (YAP) National Leadership Training Programme and the YAP International Summer Camp in between July and August 2011 respectively.
Mamadou Edrisa Njie also represented YJAG at the 2011 launch of the National Voluntary Service Scheme, by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Employment and Regional Integration. Prior to this, he represented YJAG at a Youth Leadership Training organised by the Youth Employment Network (YEN) in April 2011.

Awards
On April 6, 2011, YJAG members Saikou Jammeh and Binta Bah, Editor-In-Chief and Judicial Correspondent, were awarded the “Best Columnist” and “Best Reporter” respectively, by the Daily News management in recognition of their commitment and hard work, during the 2rd year anniversary of the paper.
During the 3rd edition of the National Sports Awards on 2nd June 2011, organised by the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia (SJAG), YJAG’s Amadou Wuyeh Manga was awarded “Broadcaster of the year” 
A year earlier (2010), YJAG member, Lamin Drammeh was awarded “The Best Sports Writer of the year” by the SJAG.
Most recently, YJAG trio, Demba Kandeh, Isatou Bittaye and Modou S. Joof were awarded prices for emerging 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively at the end of the first phase of the GPU/Article19 West Africa - European Union-funded training for journalists on “International Standards on Freedom of Expression”  

Meetings
We have also been holding executive and general meetings in which issues of common concern have been raised and we try to deal with them in a manner that is better for the progress of the association. However, I must note that in most cases, the turnout looks rather unimpressive because majority of YJAG members have not been attending.
I am glad to reiterate that Mr. Lamin Manga, the Proprietor of Unique FM continues to offer YJAG tremendous support by offering us space at Unique FM in Bakau for us to hold our general body meetings regularly.
Along with all these activities, we have held at intervals, a number of football matches, one of which was against media chief, aimed at promoting understanding and cordial relations with our bosses.

Travels and promotions
Finally, I am glad to report that quite a good number of our members have improved remarkably in their news reportage and work generally, earning them promotions to decision making positions across media platforms in The Gambia. 
This is largely due to the numerous trainings offered locally and internationally in the absence of a journalism institute, but it is also down to their self-esteem, commitment and determination to go through the rigours of progress.

Thank you for your attention.

Note: YJAG was formed on 16th September, 2007 with the objective of promoting unity among young journalists in The Gambia; provide capacity building and addressing the welfare of its members, among others. The association is also tasked with the responsibility to facilitate the recruitment of aspiring journalist into the profession.
With its motto being “Capacity Building, Duty to Inform”, YJAG is made up of a structure of an 11 Executive member committee, comprising of a President, 2 Vice Presidents, 2 Secretaries, a Treasurer, a Public Relations Officer, an Auditor, and three co-opted members.
The Association is also served by a 9 member board of advisers with the Gambia Press Union and the Minister of Information being permanent members, others include lawyers, publishers, editors and human rights activists.    

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