Apr 8, 2016, 12:30 PM
We welcome the “Prohibition Order on Advertisement of Traditional Medicine practices in The Gambia”, which is published in this edition of The Point (see page 4) for the information and education of all concerned.
We are aware that the Health ministry, when Fatim Badji was the minister of Health, did put out a similar “prohibition order” years ago.
However, since it was not followed up with stringent monitoring and enforcement, it has been treated with disregard, especially by the proprietors of our commercial FM stations.
We also recall that Dr. Adama Sallah, in his capacity as head of the office of the Medical and Dental Association, in an interview with GRTS television years ago, did clearly state that such advertising by local radio stations was wrong, and should stop. It never did; it has continued!
The ministry of Health should work with the ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, PURA, to come up with a way of monitoring radio stations and newspapers, to ensure they comply.
For instance, the directorate of Health Promotion and Education could play a role in this process of monitoring the media to ensure and enforce compliance.
We want to further suggest that a whole lot of other agencies such as the police should also get involved.
For instance, the office of the IGP could consult with relevant government ministries/departments to see how resources could be made available, for a collaborative effort to create a unit to monitor and ensure that businesses involved and the general public comply with the law as specified in the public announcement.
As regards enforcement and compliance – the lack of which is a national disease - the police, for example, could come up with a way of collaborating with the National Environment Agency and municipal/area councils to monitor compliance with and enforce the anti-littering law and similar public health regulations.
In any case, concerning the matter at hand, it is our humble view that the national regulatory authority for electronic media must enforce the requisite regulations, and where these are lacking come up with them.
We hope the general public will appreciate the need to enforce this particular ban.
The professional ethical codes relating to public broadcasting and the operations of the mass media require media practitioners not to use the media to promote superstition or belief in devils etc.
The codes were also meant to prevent fraudulent practices etc., with the aid of the media.
Imagine the adverts claiming that a particular traditional healer can cure blindness. For all we know, since the dawn of history, it was only Jesus Christ who cured blindness, as narrated in the Bible.
Indeed, the worst practices in these media are now being copied by our FM stations, such as fortune-telling through the radio phone-in.
Because unethical programming – going by the professional codes of conduct - is rampant on the electronic media in neighbouring countries does not make it right.
Indeed, we have to be vigilant to prevent radio programming of questionable value from being imported and taking root in our electronic media programming.
We admit that proper training and education of media practitioners should be part of the solution!
Consequently, we call on media houses and professional bodies such as the Gambia Press Union to look into how to ensure media workers exercise maximum professionalism all the time.
“I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights”.