EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: In The Gambia, economic and financial reporting is a bead less popular than politics and crime, even though the area has bearing on every aspect of live.
Journalists avoid the task therein, for either lack of interest, knowledge or both, leaving the domain short of simplified narrative for the common man to hold government accountable on budgetary issues.
The Gambia Press Union (GPU), in its efforts to change the narrative in The Gambian media, has developed a Handbook to serve as reference point for Journalists reporting on Budget and Public Finance.
The project, supported by the International Republican Institute is expected to position the media on its role of raising civic interest and participation in all stages of budget and public finance.
Speaking at the validation of the document over the weekend, President of the Gambia Press Union defined the tool as a resource and reference for journalists covering budget and those in economic journalism as a whole.
“When you look at the media outlets, you don’t often hear, see or read about compelling or authoritative stories about budget and public finance. It is not because journalists are not interested, everybody is interested on these issues but the problem is you cannot report about something you don’t know, you cannot tell people about issues that are not clear to yourself.”
He said they felt that in filing these reporting gaps, what they need urgently is not about the issue of capacity building, saying capacity building in the form of training is one thing but when one give people the tools especially fourteen-page booklet after it is produced, it fit any pocket and one can carry it everywhere and journalists can use it as their Qur’an or bible for reference on daily basis.
The need for intervention by the International Republican Institute is governed by the absence of independent analysis of the media when it comes to the financial sector.
Robina Namusisi, Resident Program Director of IRI believes that the media has a key role in ensuring fiscal transparency. “Our project is US government fervent support to the Gambia to response on those gaps that are been identify in the fiscal transparency report for the US state department. Our target groups are CSOs and the media, we work with the CSOs and so far we have work to support the coalition a civil society organization budget transparency and that is a coalition that advocate for transparency in public financing.”
Lamin Fatty, who represented the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs said that the involvement of the media will support his ministry in the bid to avail the public with all information about budget and activities around it.
It is highly anticipated that once published, this handbook will not only increase the number of journalist in this form of reporting, but it will also increase accessibility of simplified versions of budget and its related matters.
“Media is very crucial and has a very pivotal role to enable citizens to be well informed in order to increase budget transparency and accountability will lead to sound fiscal discipline,” he said.
He said that citizens as key stakeholders should have access to every information and all possible feedbacks on total government revenue that is collected and expenditure that has been carried out during the fiscal year.
Mr Fatty expressed conviction that the handbook will enable non-technical experts such as the journalists to be able to do their job.