Close to two dozen journalists have started training at Kairaba Beach Hotel on conflict sensitive reporting ahead of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission that is due to start in October this year.
The commission was established by the Gambia Government and it is expected to investigate the human rights violations of the past regime under Yahya Jammeh.
“… There are very sensitive issues that will be discussed during this entire process. It is important to responsibly report to ensure that we do not put to risk the lives of the witnesses, victims, perpetrators and their families…,” said Musu Bakoto Sawo, the deputy executive secretary of the TRRC.
The two-day training was organized by the Ministry of Justice with support from International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistants.
In a statement delivered on his behalf by Hussein Thomasi, the justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou, cautioned journalists to ensure accuracy in their reporting especially on the process of the TRRC.
“With new technologies and wider outreach, the media is now a target for misinformation, manipulation and in some cases suppression by interest groups as well as opposing sides trying to control the narrative… It is therefore important that journalists and editors exhibit professionalism at all times,” Tambadou said.
“The 22 years of dictatorship in this country has left us with a legacy of rights violations and abuses characterized by brutal crimes in forms of torture, unlawful killings, secret burials, illegal detention, rape and other forms of gender base violence. There will undoubtedly be harrowing testimonies during the hearings of the TRRC… Such revelations may in some cases have the potentials to cause irreparable harm to a person’s family and friends… We should be mindful of verification of information and ensure that certain sensitive information are obtained from competent sources…”
The British High Commissioner to the Gambia, Sharon Wardle, said the critical political transition Gambia is going through calls for, “more than ever before, a sensitive, responsible reporting…”
“You (journalists) are a powerful voice in the Gambia and so I really urge you to think and learn from the conversation that you will be having during this course and apply that as you go forth to do the reporting on the TRRC process,” Sharon said.
“Your population will be relying on you for sensible and honest accounts of what is going on. So please do think of your audiences and let’s make this a truly open and transparent TRRC process for all Gambians.”