Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: As an emeritus journalist, I believed in the guiding core principles of the fourth estate that aspires to the stewardship in the media of honest reporting, in the public trust in fairness, truth, and objectivity ethical journalism. Journalistic objectivity aims to help the audience make up their mind or informed choices about a story, providing the facts alone and then letting the audiences interpret those facts independently. Objectivity reporting is meant to positively portray issues and events, regardless of the writer’s opinion or personal beliefs.
An ethical journalist acts with integrity, seek the truth, and report with minimize biases. Ethical journalists should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information. Bias can significantly influence Journalists as individuals and as a community responds to troubling events complicated by the tribal identities, political identity, and religious identity of the people involved. Human bias is not only an indispensable component of producing quality journalism. It is also a critical skill for audiences and sharers of news and information to minimize journalists’ work bias.
Fatoumatta: I remember a colleague of mine and classmate and Nieman Fellow class of 2006 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University who used to be a columnist and editor with a reputable newspaper, where she said, “We all have biases,” she wrote where she defended why she is supporting Manchester United and no other football team in the English Premier League.
Cliched, or generalist as the statement is, it reaffirmed my belief since I was a kid that no single human being can be wholly objective or neutral.
As a trained journalist, I know a story should be fair and balanced, and each side is given a fair hearing. However, there are stories where that is possible. Furthermore, politics, climate change, the cold war, religion, and other sensitive issues, neutrality, and objectivity are impossible, but professionalism is encouraged. Hunter S.Thompson once told a reporter, in an interview with Atlantic:
“Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You cannot be objective about Nixon. How can you be objective about Donald Trump?” he told a befuddled reporter.
He further told the reporter, “If you consider the great journalists in history, you do not see too many objective journalists on that list. H. L. Mencken was not objective. Mike Royko, who Pulitzer winner. I. F. Stone was not objective. Mark Twain was not objective. I do not quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective,”
A more accurate word has never been spoken. As human beings, we are a selfish lot and only want the best for ourselves, family, community, nation, religion (almost in that order.). So inherently, there is nothing wrong with media practitioners and journalists supporting and voting for any politician of your choice. At the root of it, as I have explained before, politics is defined as who gets what, when, and how, according to Harold Laswell. So any politician who is reigning will always favor his own. That is why the world over, there are always two major sides in politics; conservatives and liberals (the so-called right or left).
Contrary to popular opinion, the Gambia’s politics is devoid of ideology and principles. We have only organized around ‘Badinyaa Fassa’, classism, elitism, tribe, ‘Jokerre Endam’ and ‘Terri-kaffo.’ The silent majority of Gambians will be predominantly conservative. If you read Walter Rodney or have enough historical grasp of colonialism in Africa, you will understand why Africans will be conservative in their political choices. Being Bantus plays a role too. They prefer a settled livelihood, ideal for business, farming, and all that. That is why they will always be opposed to any disruptive politician.
On the other hand, all communities that have been sidelined since independence are likely to coalesce around a candidate of their own, hence the popularity of a political leader, almost exclusively in other countries because of them being marginalized.
It is not unique to the Gambia. Even the countries that we think are advanced, like states, are so tribal. Not many of you may know that, for instance, the Irish vote is one of the most sought after by politicians. Any politician with even a drop of Irish blood always sojourns to Ireland to excite the richly Irish and Catholic voting base, from John F.Kennedy to Barack Obama. Even Bill Clinton always works. Politicians always work out the tribes and know-how; each tribe must be approached. Rich white people, mostly former landowners and businessmen, will always favor the status quo, hence their conservatism.
However, how do these ideological divides keep in touch with the fan base? Simple. Even media ownership and control, and readership is ideological. Hence Liberal Media (New York Times and CNN), so hated by Donald Trump, will always back a democratic candidate; however, a poor choice may be and will do everything to defend them.
Fox supports the right.
Moreover, I think the Gambia is ripe for that. In the Gambia, all independent media houses before the Daily Observer sold to Yahya Jammeh and were friendly towards the opposition. Other journalists have always been strategically “neutral, “at times shamelessly pro-government, and it always comes back to bite them (whether it is political hacks paying them, a midnight visit, or being forced at gun-point to sack two of their most prized possessions only for one of the most industrious journalists to be arrested a year later. Rather than pretend, it pays for even citizens to which media house they can to hear the “truth” about their side of politics.
Former President Yahya Jammeh’s “gaffe” ( the TRRC will always get the Gambian right agitated and working extra hard), we would rather bury our heads in the sand to a point where violent settlement will be the only way out) It got me thinking, which media had Yahya Jammeh’s back.
From my analysis, either by design or accidentally, the media seems to be giving President Adama Barrow short shrift or picking the nonsensical bits of his speeches and magnifying them, at the cost of the tough stuff he says. On the opposition side, only the positive stuff and creative tackles from opposition leaders seem to be given preeminence.
What if President Barrow invested in the media over the last four years. A large, credible media that can always by his side, despite how many blunders he commits, can defend him.
It is hard to trust the Independent media in the Gambia who supports the opposition today, and withdraws its loyalty tomorrow. You cannot bank on some of them and independent media houses that received a GMD 15 million Covid-19 relief package grant.
Fatoumatta: I know their ramifications of running a media house. The rule of law in the Gambia is not yet entrenched. You can force all intimidation manner (sometimes to the point of submission), a journalist can lose his life, but power can change hands, and yesterday’s powerful guys can be the beggars in the next government. They are being intimidated, left, right and center.
Fatoumatta: Anyone with political ambition must invest in media. Furthermore, they must guide the media to pursue the agenda they want to pursue. Hopefully, everything is done in the right way, and of course, not inciting hatred as we saw in Rwanda and Germany sometime back in 1948.
Alagi Yorro Jallow