Gambia Press Union (GPU) that promotes free expression and media freedom has
argued that the Supreme Islamic Council’s (SIC) petition against issuance of
Television broadcasting license has no legal basis and lacks reasonable
justification for consideration.
In a statement addressed to The Gambia’s regulatory body PURA issued Jan. 31, 2018, the union urged PURA to dismiss the petition submitted by SIC Supreme Islamic Council against issuance of TV licence to the Ahmadiya Muslim Jammat .
Below we reproduce the full text of the GPU’s:
Fajara: Jan. 31: The Gambia Press Union (GPU) is calling on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to dismiss the petition submitted by the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC) against the application for Television Broadcasting License by the Ahmadiya Muslim Jammat.
As the Authority mandated to regulate the broadcasting industry, PURA is required by Section 230 (5) of the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013 to publish applications received in relation to Television Broadcasting License.
Accordingly, upon receipt of Ahmadiya Muslim Jammat’s application, PURA has published the notice in accordance with Section 230 (6) of the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013, which required the Authority to invite petition from interested persons, who seek to oppose grant of license to an applicant.
It is in accordance with Section 230 (6) of the ICA that the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council petitioned PURA to reject Ahmadiya Muslim Jammat’s application for Television Broadcasting License. The Council argued that the Jammat is outside the pale of Islam; and that granting them license will allow them to pollute the minds of Muslims.
It is important to note that the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013 places the regulation of broadcasting - transmission and content - under PURA. However, the ultimate decision on issuance of television and radio license rests with the Minister for Information and Communication Infrastructure (MoICI). Section 230(1) provides that ‘the Minister, on the advice of the Authority, shall issue broadcasting licenses in sufficient numbers to meet the public demand for broadcasting services. Similarly, Section 232 provides that upon recommendation by the Authority, the Minister ‘may’ renew, revoke or suspend a broadcasting license.
In light of the above, the Gambia Press Union is of the considered view that whilst the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council might have acted within the law, the Council’s petition lack any legal basis or reasonable justification for consideration. The Authority is hereby urged not to give any favourable consideration to the petition. The petition should be rejected on the following grounds:
Equality before the law
The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia dictates that all persons are equal before the law. The preamble of the Constitution states that: “The fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution will ensure for all time respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to ethnic considerations, gender, language or religion.”