WPFD: QTV’s Jai Sonko hosted mentorship forum for young aspiring Journalists 

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By: Foday Manneh 

The United Nations declared May 3 of every year as World Press Freedom Day observed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

On this day, for the third year in a row, Jainaba Sonko, a journalist and TV presenter with one of the Gambia’s broadcasting media outlets QTV Gambia, has hosted a mentorship forum for school students aspiring to become journalists in the future. 

The event provides the children an opportunity to learn and be inspired by the stories of veteran Gambian journalists who have endured agonizing stories during the dictatorial regime of former President Yahya Jammeh. 

The initiator, Jainaba Sonko, drew her motivation from the lack of mentorship opportunities to become a journalist. She felt it is crucial to prepare the younger generation ahead with the theme of this year’s celebration. 

Jainaba Sonko, the organizer of the mentorship event.

“I blindly came into journalism in 2018 without any mentorship. It was a free environment at the time because that was not during Yahya Jammeh’s time. Currently, it is a bit freer. So it is a matter of giving these young children the right mentorship that I have not acquired to know the history of journalism in this country,” Jainaba told TAT. 

“They are the future when they understand the principles of freedom of expression and press freedom; it would filter down to future generations because they are young and want to become journalists. So they are eager to move. The theme for this year, “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all other human rights,” fits what we are doing here today,” she added. 

Veteran journalist and former Minister of Information of the Gambia, Demba Ali Jawo, was the day’s lecturer. He lectured the students on the history of journalism in the Gambia, ethics, and the role of journalists in a meaningful society. 

Veteran journalist and former Minister of Information of the Gambia, Demba Ali Jawo

Mr. Jawo said it was rough and tough for Gambia journalists during the former regime, adding that almost half of the journalists fled the country for their lives at the time. However, he commended the country’s recently improved rating of press freedom.

 He credited it to the Gambian people while he challenged the government to do more in amplifying the “Never Again” mantra. 

The President of the Women Journalist Association of The Gambia, Annette Camara, also shared some inspirational stories of her time in the newsroom, from being sent out of the studio or facing suspensions for being critical about national issues. 

The President of the Women Journalist Association of The Gambia, Annette Camara

She, however, advised the students not to be discouraged on their paths of becoming journalists. 

One of the aspiring journalists, Kadijatou Jabbie, shared with us what she learned during the forum. 

She said, “This event has allowed me to learn about the freedom we are supposed to have. In addition, I have learned about what happened in the history of the country’s journalism.”

“It would be very lively to work in an environment without threat to freedom of expression. If we had such an environment, we could do our research and work easily.”

Prominent Human Rights activist Madi Jobarteh and the Editor-in-Chief of QTV Gambia, Ade Daramy, encouraged the students and challenged them to commit to their studies and achieve their dreams.

Madi Jobarteh

The event, sponsored by UNICEF, concluded with a visit to the Memory House in Kanifing. The students also learned about the exhibited stories of people, including journalists whose rights were violated by the dictatorship regime of Yahya Jammeh. 

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