By Edward Francis Dalliah
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) an umbrella body for the Gambian media announced its plans to host the National Journalism Award 2023 during a press conference held on Friday 6th October 2023 by its Awards Committee at their office in Bakau.
During her opening statement, the President of the Women Journalist Association of the Gambia, Annette Camara, who is a member of the 2023 Awards Committee highlighted that the objective of the award is to celebrate “Gambian journalists and excellence in the media”. In addition, she noted that the award focuses “on empowering Gambian journalists to go beyond the headlines”.
Mr Nfamara Jawneh the Vice Chair of the Award Committee noted that such awards were never held during the Jammeh’s regime because “it was so difficult” and they “never had the opportunity”. One may view the Gambia under Jammeh’s regime as an unfriendly nation for journalism, and some who ventured into the field were either suppressed, killed, or imprisoned, while some ran to seek refuge in exile.
Thus, this discouraged many parents from encouraging their children to pursue a career in the media and journalism in particular. However, with the change in government after the 2016 election, a democratic state emerged giving light to journalism in the country. But despite the changes, working journalists still face challenges in practising their craft.
The GPU National Journalism Award which was first held in 2017 after the change of government has been playing a crucial role in boosting the value of journalism in the Gambia, for its aim is to foster and build recognition of the work of journalists in the country.
The award ceremony for this year is slated to take place on the 16th of December 2023 and will feature seventeen distinct category awards, including the newly added security reporting award. However, there are special GPU awards which are aimed at recognising outstanding journalistic achievements, these awards are excluded from the seventeen distinct awards listed.
The seventeen distinct categories of awards are:
- Business and Finance Reporting Award
- Sports Reporting Award
- Environment Reporting Award
- Investigative Reporting Award
- Health and Medical Reporting Award
- Women’s Reporting Award
- Children’s Reporting Award
- Travel and Tourism Reporting Award
- Culture, Arts and Entertainment Reporting Award
- Agriculture Reporting Award
- Political Reporting Award
- Human Rights Reporting Award
- Legal Affairs Reporting Award
- Photo Journalist Reporting Award
- Journalist of the Year
- Security Reporting Award
- Community/Rural Radio of the Year.
Ms Isatou Keita the Vice President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU), and also the Chair of the Award Committee revealed the eligibility for the awards which is extended “to all Gambian journalists employed by registered Gambian-based media outlets and platforms. [And the] works authored by Gambian journalists for international media sources”. However, she noted that “opinion pieces, advertorials, content generated under commercial contracts for promotional purposes and newsletter items or articles are not eligible for submission”.
In addition to that Ms Keita pointed out that the eligible “entries must have been produced between the 1st of January 2022 and the 31st of December 2022, and they must have been published in Gambian-registered media outlets”. Journalists are encouraged to follow the GPU award social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @GPU Awards or their website at www.gpuawards.gm.
Speaking further she revealed that the panel of Judges will be a selection of independent media experts who will be tasked with a vital role in “receiving and evaluating all entries, ultimately determining the most deserving recipients of the award”. These judges she noted will be considering some criteria such as accuracy and relevance, grammar, style and presentation, the impact, creativity and originality of the story.
Ms Keita assured all journalists that the judges would “maintain complete independence in their roles” and added that “their decision and evaluations will remain untouched by any external influence” ensuring an impartial and fair process. Closing the press conference, she called out for the support of donors in both the private and public sectors highlighting a clarification that the “committee operates independently of the GPU and sustains its fundraising and financial activities autonomously”.