GPU-projektet sluttede med fest og farver – efter mere end fire år

I januar 2023 mødtes GPU, GAMES og MAJaC til en yderst vellykket workshop i Gambia – som led i GPU-projektet og evalueringen heraf.

Af Lars Møller, formand for GAMES

Aldrig før har GAMES fået så god feedback på en afsluttende rapport. Efter et til tider kaotisk forløb kom vi mere end godt i mål sammen med vores partner Gambia Press Union  (GPU): Projektet endte som en stor succes.

“Rapporten er fremragende struktureret, velskrevet og indeholder en detaljeringsgrad over gennemsnittet i forhold til indsatsens resultater.”

Sådan indleder vores funder og støttepartner CISU (Civilsamfund i Udvikling) sin godkendelse af den afsluttende rapport for projektet GPU as a trade union and advocate – for members, media and democracy (GPU som fagforening og fortaler – for medlemmer, medier og demokrati).

Når man skal afrapportere fire års tæt samarbejde med en gambisk fagforening, er det mange folk, der skal i gang. Herhjemme og i Gambia. I begge lande er nye folk kommet til undervejs – især i Gambia.

At se helheden for første gang
Over 10 deltog i at evaluere og skrive rapporten – og heldigvis for det. For det var det hele værd. Projektet voksede undervejs, både i omfang (”Har vi virkelige nået så meget?) og i resultater (”Har vi virkelig gjort det så godt?”).

Først da vi sammen skabte et overblik over alle årene og alle detaljerne, kunne vi overskue helheden – og opdage, hvor godt det var. Helheden var større end selve projektet – den talte også sideprojekter, bl.a. støttet af IMS og Dansk Journalistforbund, foruden GPU’s mange aktiviteter.

For det var jo det, CISU-projektet gik ud på: At GPU blev bedre til at udføre sine opgaver som fagforening for medlemmerne og fortaler for mediefrihed og demokrati.

Slow is faster, selvfølgelig
Projektet var designet til at vare 2 år og 6 måneder. Efter 4 år, 8 måneder og 3 forlængelser sluttede det 1. september 2023, og først her i december bliver vi færdige med evalueringen.

GAMES udviklede projektet i 2018 sammen med én bestyrelse for GPU, søsatte det sammen med en anden bestyrelse i 2019, og gik i forlænget spilletid med en tredje bestyrelse i 2022. Samtidig var alle ansatte på nær GPU’s bogholder udskiftet, da vi var nået halvvejs i forløbet.

Det har flere gange været et kaotisk forløb – ikke bare på grund af nye bestyrelser og nye ansatte i GPU, men også på grund af Corona-nedlukning, samarbejdsvanskeligheder på kryds og tværs, og en evaluering i 2022, der var lige ved at sende os alle sammen i gulvet.

Til gengæld var evalueringen en anledning for os alle sammen til at ryste posen, få styr på problemerne og lave en ny og forlænget plan. Og det lykkedes jo. Vi havde brug for den tid, det tog.

Eller som CISU skriver det: ”Indsatsen har formået at opnå bemærkelsesværdige resultater på trods af væsentlige udfordringer.”

For nørder: 40 varige forbedringer
CISU roser også den måde, hvorpå vi har skrevet rapporten: ”Samlet set er omstruktureringen af rapporten til at omfatte afsnit om varige forbedringer som en del af afsnit 1.2 velbegrundet og giver et logisk flow i forhold til at undgå indbyrdes forbundne afsnit, der bliver opdelt i segmenter – dette er både tydeligt afbildet og forklaret som en del af rapporten, hvilket igen er prisværdigt.”

Hvis du vil læse mere om varige forbedringer – så scroll igennem de mange varige forbedringer (bliv ved, indtil scroll-funtionen ikke virker mere):

Lasting improvements that cut across the three objectives and are relevant for the development objective:

  1. Today, GPU is invited when the government prepares laws and reforms on media, good governance, and democracy, e.g. GPU is a member of the Ministry of Information’s Key Stakeholder Consultative Forum for policy advocacy and input on legal reforms, institutional capacity building and enhanced participation of the civil society in the information sector governance process. GPU is involved in the design of the Gambia’s Peacebuilding Priorities 2024-2028 and the establishment of a Gambian-owned Infrastructure for Peace.
  2. Today, GPU is engaging the many emerging media, and when GPU invites editors for lengthy consultations, they show up. GPU helps media, editors and station managers, and the practitioners to organize themselves in specific partner-organisations – and invite them to affiliate with the union.
  3. Today, GPU sets new standards for media development, e.g. on freedom of information, fact-checking, the coverage of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, and by supporting The Media Council of The Gambia. GPU is also exploring new frontiers like data journalism, constructive journalism and expanding mobile journalism.
  4. GPU has the muscles to advocate for its agendas, to build coalitions with CSOs, and to lobby government for involvement. In summary, the strengthened GPU stands in a much better position to sustain and follow up on the activities and results of this project.
  5. The lasting improvement is that payment and working conditions are established as a collective rather than an individual matter. Today, more journalists are getting employment contracts, but still, payment of salaries can be delayed. The new structures also guide the GPU’s further action. The union is planning a nationwide tour to engage more media houses in CBA negotiations.  
  6. Lasting improvements for the members include the transparency of the policy and the implementation of cheaper and less harmful conflict resolution: Today, more cases against journalists or media houses are being brought to the MCG than to the courts. The policy also guides the union in the development of an Assault Guide for Journalists and provides basic legal training for journalists, which it has planned to do with support from the EU through International IDEA.
  7. A lasting improvement is more paying members. The policy outlines ways for GPU to deduct pending member fees from transport refund to journalists participating in GPU events. As a result, more members have paid their dues. The GPU had 667 registered members in July 2023, compared to 400 in 2018, and more are applying to join the union.
  8. A lasting improvement is that GPU now has a mechanism for filing complaints on sexual harassment. A few cases are filed and have been acted upon.
  9. More importantly media houses now have a Sexual Harassment Policy which sets out procedures and structures for them to mitigate and fight sexual harassment in newsrooms. Negotiations with more media houses for them to adopt the policy is the next step for GPU.

Lasting improvements include:

  1. A pool of safety trainers. Three of the trainers are today members of the GPU board, one as the chair, and two of them are lead staff of GPU.
  2. “The Media Safety Toolbox – Editorial tools for risk assessments, safety plans and SOPs” that consists of 15-20 specific tools tailored to the journalistic and editorial processes. The tools are tested in the journalistic processes and are available for future training.
  3. AMedia Safety Mechanism that is now embedded within 20 media houses. After a safety assessment of media houses, the Media Safety Toolbox was installed in the major editorial offices, along with in-house safety courses. The toolbox will remain significant for a very long time and can be utilised by future generations of journalists.
  4. Editorial safety procedures and internal cooperation on safety and Media Risk Management. In addition, editors formed an informal group called “Editors for Safety” that sustains editorial cooperation on safe research and publishing. The Media Safety Mechanism also includes a safety network of employees (GPU-reps or specially assigned safety reps at the workplaces).
  5. Embedded experiences in the minds and bodies of 180 journalists that participated in experiential safety training. The practical exercises equipped them with a lasting personal experience of danger and actual mitigation, which can be recalled when covering e.g. heated press meetings, demonstrations, election campaigns. The experience gained remains to be utilised after the project.
  6. A Gambian HEAT course (tested by 18 senior reporters during four days long bootcamp in conflict coverage, hostile sources, travel, robbery, accidents, first aid, threats, attacks, active shooters, kidnapping, and escape. The course is tailored to a West African reality and has the potential to be taught by MAJaC throughout the region – for journalists and CSO activists.
  7. Introduction of press cards and safety jackets, which is helping to reduce attacks on journalists due to mistaken identity. Secondly, these have attracted other journalists to sign up with GPU.
  8. Safety is now acknowledged as important by other media players who have been sensitized through annual events such as “Commemoration of crimes against journalists” and “National forum on safety of journalists” and “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” and through production of materials on safety. GPU also used media to spread the message, e.g. this news piece from the national TV station, GRTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTKfsb683gA&t=123s.
  9. Established dialogue with political parties and other stakeholders. GPU successfully conducted “Stakeholder Dialogues” or “Annual interfaces” with the Government, civil servants, CSOs, the security sector, and political party leaders to mitigate threats and to sustain a general understanding of the need to make The Gambia a safe place for journalists – and placed GPU in the center of further development. It also helped to introduce the “Media Council of The Gambia”.
  10. A framework for a National Safety Mechanism. Targeted dialogues explored structures for creating a swift governmental response mechanism when journalists or CSO activists are attacked, including structures to stop the attack, protect against further attacks, and initiate immediate investigation of the attack. GPU succeeded to create momentum for a framework for a national safety mechanism embedded in the National Human Rights Commission.

Lasting improvements include:

  • GPU’s affiliate organisatrions have transformed their organizations to policy-driven organizations through the utilization of GPU policies, e.g. anti-corruption procedures, and implemented their activities in line with the GPU “Financial, Procurement and Internal Control Procedures Manual”.
  • Affiliates now have practical experiences in project development and project management and activity implementation and have held meetings with their members. All affiliates have been able to engage in some form of partnerships with other organizations to implement activities.
  • The dormant WOJAG relaunched their association and adopted a new constitution. They are holding regular meetings, are involved in union activities, and are active on social media.
  • During the GPU Annual General Meeting in April 2023, the affiliates, as planned, submitted their annual reports for 2022 which were incorporated into the GPU annual report.
  • Seen from GPU’s greenhouse perspective, the project thus has nursed potential candidates for coming GPU committees, staff vacancies, or even the next GPU board.

Lasting improvements include:

  • GPU has made their first consolidated annual account.
  • Procurement and compensation are guided by the policy on finance, procurement, compensation.
  • GPU now performs periodic staff appraisals. 
  • GPU now has procedures for involvement of members.
  • Due to the implementation of the communication policy, the visibility of GPU locally has improved and communication and outreach been enhanced.
  • Each staff of the GPU now has an official GPU email (@gpu.gm) for all official communications.
  • GPU has developed branding materials like cups and mugs with the GPU logo. 
  • Implementation of bimonthly GPU in-house capacity building meetings.

Lasting improvements include:

  • The GPU has capacity to generate and manage projects and campaigns
  • At the end of 2023 GPU has fundraised 3 projects (UNDEF, 2 years, $154,000; IFEX, 1 year, $20,000; and KAS, 3 months, €10,000), while 1 UNESCO-proposal is awaiting response. In addition, the NDI has contracted the GPU to conduct trainings for government permanent secretaries, information officers, journalists and civil society on access to information in early 2024, The GPU is also implementing activities related to hate speech and information disorder as part of a 3 years I4P (Infrastructure for Peace) Project or Social Cohesion Project by UNESCO, UNDP and ITC under the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).

Lasting improvements include:

  • The Gambia now has a law on “Freedom of Information” and an “Access to Information Act”.
  • GPU initiated a coalition for their implementation and now serves as its secretariat. This coalition counts more than 50 CSOs.
  • GPU has initiated regular meetings of the strategic committee for media sector reform with a focus on advocacy for freedom of expression, freedom of information and good governance.
  • Through a partnership with the Anti-Corruption Coalition, GPU has been awarded a grant by the United Nations Development Program to embark on advocacy and sensitization on the newly developed Anti-Corruption Bill of The Gambia.
  • The GPU has engaged with TANGO’s Working Group on Human Rights and Governance – which works to promote human rights and good governance – and has partnered with TANGO in July 2023 to hold a sensitization of the Access to Information law to raise awareness of local government authorities to promote good governance in civil society organisations.
  • The GPU also participates in peacebuilding initiatives by the United Nations System in the Gambia on initiatives aimed at improving governance and maintaining peace.

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