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Unethical and Unreliable Practice of Journalism

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Unethical and Unreliable Practice of Journalism:

By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of Gambian journalism and in our politics. This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat to violence, hate speech, platform for broadcasting of hate and incitement to violence, misinformation, and direct threat to individuals. It is not just against the norms of Gambian politics and journalism, this raises a serious question of whether it is ethical practice of the craft. If any other citizen had raised about unethical journalism, would the Gambia Press Union be investigating?

To anyone who still pretends this type of journalism in the Gambia is normal journalism and politics, history is watching. And I suspect its verdict will be harsh. Many have tried to do a side-shuffle and issue statements saying they strongly disagree with those rhetoric but still support their political leaders. That is becoming woefully insufficient. The rhetoric is the unethical behavior and practice of journalism.

Professionals in every field of endeavor, by their training, are assumed to be capable of making judgements and applying acquired skills to arrive at informed decisions while dealing with their clients.

In journalism, dealing with a mass clientele that requires timely, and credible information to make socio-political and economic decisions, especially in a democracy, imposes a huge responsibility on practitioners to come across always, as dependable allies in the tasks of human development and nation-building.

Across many nations of the world, codes of ethics for journalists otherwise known as canons of journalism, share common principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability in news gathering and dissemination.

Any journalism practice therefore, in breach of these commonly shared principles cannot be said to be professional. While the internet has unleashed on the society, a floodgate of citizen journalists, whose excesses and unethical practices can be excused, the role of supposedly trained journalists in the propagation of falsehood, half-truths and deliberate misinformation, through the internet and other mainstream media, is alarming and demands urgent attention from all stakeholders.

In contemporary Gambia stories from rumor mills, and other concocted tales about individuals, public figures and groups make headlines in newspapers and on social media platforms, leaving the subjects thoroughly embarrassed. Such practices not only expose the biases and pecuniary interests of those involved, it also erodes public trust in the journalism profession. This is where we all come in. The unethical conducts of a few, call to question our collective integrity.

Sadly, those who engage in unethical journalism often hide under the cover of press freedom. However, freedom in this regard is not intended as a license to irresponsibility. Press freedom as a watchdog responsibility, is freedom to investigate and bring to public domain, incontrovertible facts about individuals or groups, whether they be economic or political, with a view to holding them accountable to the people they serve.

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When journalists become attack dogs and agents of mischief in the hands of political opponents, the result is falsehood, misinformation and general unethical behaviors that are inimical to the peace and progress of society.

Certain politicians will undoubtably issue an explanation; some of their political party surrogates are already engaged in trying to gloss it over, but once the words are out there they cannot be taken back. That is what inciting violence means.

In the Gambia today, unethical journalism has become a source of worry for victims, ethical journalists and other stakeholders, who read daily, misleading headlines and outright lies, as stories in popular local newspapers and on social media.

Constant criticism and portrayal of public officials in bad light with vague and unsubstantiated evidences, clearly contradicts the submission of Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Tumbull that, “The most effective check and balance on government has been an independent press which maintains its credibility by ensuring that its criticism is balanced and based on fact – based indeed on solid journalistic work.”

Truth be told, there is hardly any public figure who does not want to be portrayed in good light. However, if through journalistic investigations, they are found to be enemies of society, there is absolutely nothing wrong in bringing such findings to the knowledge of the public, after due consideration of public good.

But if under the guise of journalism or press freedom, we resort to outright lies, half-truths and malicious media offerings, we would have earned public distrust not just for ourselves, but for every other journalist and media house doing the right thing.

It must be emphasized that no journalist or media house has the right to deliberately lie against any member of the society, whether private or public personality.

However, unnecessary and unabated media attacks on innocent members of the public by some of the local journalists, can create a tensed operational environment, through redress seeking by victims, using law enforcement agents.

While it is unacceptable for any journalist anywhere to be harassed, intimidated or arrested during carrying out his professional responsibilities, it is also not wisdom for journalism practitioners to deliberately malign public officials with false and concocted news stories against them and expect them never to seek redress.

The leadership of the Gambia Press Union, under the leadership of Bai Emily Touray, has over time, sermonized and mounted seminars/workshops on the importance of adhering to ethics. Therefore, fairness and objectivity in news reports should never be sacrificed on the altar of ownership influence. Now is the time to put a stop to unethical journalism in the Gambia and in the Diaspora Gambia.

As professional journalists, any material that cannot pass the test of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and fairness to the individual, party or parties involved, is not worth according any space in the media, our personal opinions, religious or political inclinations notwithstanding.
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How Gambian Politics Became So Ineffective: Elitism, Jollof Middle Class:

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Personally, I find the overwhelming political strife something that holds all of us back, not only collectively as a country, but as individuals who simply want to fulfill our dreams, provide for our families and, if we are a fraction as lucky as you who have the privilege to be an “intellectual elitist” or a celebrity figures, member of the Jollof middle class and role models, please leave a legacy for younger generations.

Those people suffering the ” Elitism and Jollof Middle Class” disease; are those who see political agitation and civil disobedience protest on the street as “hooliganism.”

Folks who do not eat chicken skin because they will get “fat.” Folks whose mobile phones are more expensive than the limit on their health insurance. Folks who are quick to light up Cuban cigars before appreciating the nuances of tobacco smoke from a cigarette. Appearance enthusiasts. The 25-year-old single malt scotch whiskey herd. The lit crowd. Folks who “speak” too much politics on Facebook, Twitter (de facto social media for posh people of “little” words) WhatsApp but refuse to execute their constitutional right – the right to protest, the right to picket. In their “humble” thinking, protest and picketing is for “hooligans.”

As citizens, every one of us has a choice in whether we will play a role in narrowing, or widening, the tremendous political divide clouding this country

Those whose only posts on Facebook are about “peace,” “destruction of property” and how the political crisis is “affecting investments in the country, tourism and stability,” yet the only investment they have is a monthly salary bogged down by unreasonable income tax, consumption oriented bank loans, advances, mortgages, loans for cars whose fuel is barely affordable, rent paid to landlords in leafy neighborhood around Brusubi and the jet-set “Jumbo Jet” and “Java” lifestyle to create an illusion of success. Miss one paycheck and you are no better than the “hooligan” on the streets of Manjai Kunda.

Folks with little appreciation for context. Posh people who spend more of their time, jumping from one “latest” shopping mall to another, sipping cheap coffee from Cassy’s Café at Kololi and paying heart breaking prices, can only see “hooliganism” in political agitation and right to picket. Unfortunately, the “hooligans,” – from Brikama, Bakau, Serekunda, Kololi to Gunjur in Kombo South – yes, those who do not spend time talking useless business ideas and political theory in Java, are the majority.

Most of the “hooligans” we want to harsh tag, do not even own smart phones! The “hooligans” are the result of unemployment and idleness which have become, inadvertently, national pastimes. The “hooligans” determine how high your fencing at home goes. They determine how many guards you hire. The “hooligans” can collectively determine when, where and how you enjoy the mechanical myths of your turbo charged Range Rover. Today, those “hooligans” have made many posh people miss their flights and brought business to a standstill in the Greater Banjul Area.

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Instead of ranting how we should harsh tag “hooligans,” the posh “middle class” should start demanding good governance and respect for human rights. Governance that creates a conducive atmosphere for political stability, political, fighting corruption, youth employment, justice, ethnic cohesion, investments and job creation.

But again, “poshness” induced by intellectual elitism and Jollof’s middle class disease can only allow one to appreciate “CafeTtouba in the most high-tech coffee mug, not the larger environment from whence it is served.

Politics, with all its benefits, detriments and, at times, very necessary, difficult and worthy debate, has a place to go to; nonviolent- protest and picketing, a constitutional guaranteed right. I say this not because our voices should be silenced. Our voices matter. I say this because – as we all – have a place to voice our desire for political change. That place is not limited to social media, with our National Assembly, our local representatives, at the village Banaba and our nation’s leaders.

  Our voices should be silenced. our voices matter. We all – have a place to voice our desire for political change. That place is our National Assembly, our local representatives, in the streets, village Banaba’s and our nation’s leaders including civil society groups.

Yet, instead of using our celebrity or middle-class status as a path to have our voices heard in an appropriate way where real change is possible, we choose to declare yourselves ” Elitism and Jollof middle class” for social justice. We elect to exploit our constitutional right – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association arguably, our right unless we contractually agree otherwise, and – we elect to exploit the very rights to increase the incredible partisan divide in this country when we could just as easily use our voices to help heal the country. The irony is palpable.

 For those who truly care not only about our 1.9 million neighbors, but about the entire world, we must continue to learn from, and correct, our mistakes, celebrate our victories, and find a way to effectuate positive – not divisive – change from the unceasing political storm. The Gambia is a great nation in the world with remarkable and unremarkable people. Notice I did not say “perfect” nation.

From: Freedom Newspaper

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