A senior programme officer for Africa at the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has praised The Gambia Press Union (GPU) for its stance against the former regime in The Gambia for its reprisal against journalists.
Louis Thomasi was speaking at the Baobab hotel over the weekend where GPU and affiliated bodies were holding a three-day seminar on Freedom of Association and Labour Rights.
Thomasi noted that the IFJ had consistently heard the echoes of voices of journalists and is fully aware of the immense suffering meted out to journalists and media workers by the former regime.
"Your cries, however, have not been in vain, as the Gambian media has been in the frontline in the struggle to oust the dictator and your contributions to the restoration of democracy in this country has won the admiration of many across the globe," the IFJ programme officer said. He said the seminar on Freedom of Association and Labour Rights is of very high significance to the IFJ, as it forms the core component of its 3-year union-to-union project which started in 2014.
Thomasi stated that the IFJ recognised the need for an extension in 2017 in order to be able to reach out to more of its affiliate members.
The IFJ programme officer said the project's central focus is on the issue of freedom of association and labour rights and is aimed at building the capacities of journalists and media workers across the continent. He said journalists often downplay issues in relation to freedom of association, and concentrate more on freedom of expression and other rights. However, Thomasi pointed out that without the freedom of association, or strong unionism, journalists might find it very difficult to enjoy these rights even if they are guaranteed by the national constitution.
He highlighted numerous challenges journalists and trade unionists continue to face in their daily works. He observed that some significant gains have been made in the past few years, but still there are journalists in the continent that do not belong to any union or association that could defend their rights and welfare. He said some media workers and journalists are being exploited by employers particularly in the private sector. "It is the ardent believe of the IFJ that quality journalism can only be achieved if journalists are paid decent wages and their safety and security guaranteed," Thomasi said.