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Ahead of November Polls, IEC task journalists to abide by ethics

Sep 23, 2011, 2:16 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Ahead of scheduled presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in the country, the Independent Electoral Commission has urged Gambian journalists from the print and electronic media to abide by to the maximum, the standards and ethics as spelt out in the media rules on election coverage and reporting.

Joseph Colley, Director of Communication, Training and Publicity at the Commission, gave the word of caution Wednesday during his presentation on “IEC Media Guidelines on Election Coverage”.

The occasion was a four-day training workshop on election coverage and reporting for Gambian journalists, which ends today at the Gambia Press Union secretariat in Bakau.

According to him, media rules on elections were established to provide for fair access to the media by all political parties and candidates over the electoral period.

“The IEC shall, during the election campaign period, ensure that equal air time is given to each candidate and national party on the public radio and television (section 93 of the Elections Decree 1996),” Colley told journalists.

The IEC media officer, whose presentation focused on a number of pertinent issues on elections, said the Independent Electoral Commission has general powers to regulate the conduct of election.

“Special provision is also made to provide regulation on the maximum political air-time which may be used by any candidate on privately owned radio stations to reduce any advantage to a candidate with significantly more financial resources than other candidates,” he added.

However, he explained that the IEC has not deemed it necessary, at this stage, to provide financial limits on political parties advertising in the print media.

“All media outlets are reminded of the provisions of the Elections Decree, particularly sections 90-96, and the code on election campaign ethics,” he announced.

Colley went on to urge media organizations and journalists to apply the spirit of these rules and to continue to do so after the declaration of the results.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, it should be stated that private radio stations or the print media may carry out political advertisement immediately,” he stated.

Dilating further on the rules relating to public media, Colley said this section shall apply to all media organizations, radio, TV, and print, owned by the state.

“The Director General of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that there is no undue party advantage given in the public media to the party or a candidate, who is a member of the political party in government,” he explained.

Concerning the allocation of air-time on private radio stations, the IEC official added that no private radio station, other than those approved by the IEC under section 94-95 of the Election Decree, shall carry political advertisements.

“It is not required for each station to charge the same as another station, but no station shall differentiate between candidates in its charges, discount, etc,” he pointed out.

Colley further stated that a special provision requires that no political party publication or advertisement shall be carried by the public or private media in The Gambia, following the closure of campaigning at midnight.

This, he went on, does not affect analysis, news or information concerning the elections themselves, provided such coverage is balanced, objective, and done in good faith, and that it is not in any way a continuation of campaigning.

“Special attention shall be given by all members of the public media to ensure compliance with these provisions,” he added.