Gambia Press Union (GPU) and the Ministry of Information and Communication
Infrastructure (MoICI) Saturday convened a day stakeholder meeting on the
union’s developed self-regulatory mechanism and put on the table some of the
burning issues with regard to the media industry.
Among the participants in the meeting were representatives of PURA, University of The Gambia, broadcasters and publishers associations, QTV and the national broadcaster (GRTS).
Information Minister Demba Ali Jawo said: “We are concerned with the way things are unfolding in the media of recent. People are not only inciting but promoting religious intolerance. The Gambia is interrelated and we cannot afford to lose that due to certain divisive rhetoric propagated through the media, particularly the radio stations.”
He said this is probably some people in the media are not well-prepared for the task at hand and all of a sudden everyone is an expert and some of the analyses are very inciting.
Minister Jawo said throughout his life, he has been fighting for press freedom and that he cannot preside over a ministry that will censor the media, but argued the media must not make the work difficult for him too.
He said the power to revoke or suspend media license will be his ministry or the government’s last resort, saying he is not sure if “we will reach that point in this government but the media houses have to make the work easy for the government adhering to the terms of their licenses.”
The press union’s Secretary General Saikou Jammeh said the proposed name for the developed self-regulatory framework is Media Council of The Gambia and it will regulate content for print, broadcast and online.
He said when the commission is in place, an agreement could be worked out with PURA so they could only focus on regulating the technical aspect of broadcast media as opposed to both technical and content. “The commission takes care of content. The final powers and funding mechanisms of the commission will have to finally come from you; the stakeholders,” he said.
Dean of the UTG Journalism School Nana Grey-Johnson also observed that lot of things Gambian airways and newspapers do tell him that something needs to be corrected, saying journalism is not to provoke dissatisfaction.
“If the papers and radios are causing incitement, the minister has a right to revoke license and that should not be seen as censorship. Leave government out of the funding for self-regulation and leave them out for the independence of the commission.”
Editor of Foroyaa Newspaper Sam Sarr said any article that belittles a person is not for publication even if it is balanced, saying taking divisive sides and publishing them only helps to strengthen the division like it is happening now.
Director of QTV Fatou Jaw Manneh and director general of Gambia Radio and Television Services Ebrima Sillah said the mishap that is placed on the doors of the media is not entirely and journalists are not the ones making the remarks, saying the comments are from the society because religious leaders and politicians do the same – propagate divisive comments.
Madam Jaw Manneh said the media houses have a responsibility to guide “our” personnel – to sensitise the journalists on certain thematic issues, saying “if we continue with this trend of putting all mishaps on the doors of the media, it will be seen as censorship.”
DG Sillah observed that not everyone in a media house is a journalist and not all media workers are journalists, saying “we have more media workers than journalists. Just because you find yourself in news environment does not make you are a journalist.”
PURA’s head of legal licensing Junkung Jobarteh maintained that one of the foremost conditions broadcast stations license is to engender national cohesion. He said it is also a condition to relay GRTS national news which some of the radio stations are not doing.