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Rising hopes for a level playing field

Nov 1, 2011, 12:04 PM

The build up to the forthcoming presidential election, due in three weeks’ time, seen increasing evidence of one-sided use of the public media to promote the ruling APRC at the expense of the opposition, which is definitely not a good omen for free and fair elections.

However, it seems we are now seeing a difference as the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) is broadcasting political rallies of the opposition parties and hosting leaders from the opposition in its Weekend Upbeat programme on GRTS radio.

When leaders of the opposition complained of lack of access to state media at a press conference hosted by the Independent Electoral Commission held last month, they were assured by the chairman of the commission that this will now be a thing of the past. He promised to hold a meeting with the management of GRTS on the issue.

And with that promise, many people including opposition party leaders were optimistic about its implications on the country’s political terrain.

Since then, it is becoming quite reassuring that the actions of GRTS so far seem to match with what was agreed, and we hope that it continues, even after the elections, because the unfair use of the facilities of the public media by only one political party will be in complete variance with what the IEC wants in order to ensure a level playing field.

For instance, hearing about activities of the APRC being given wide coverage virtually on a daily basis, including reports of people crossing carpet from the opposition to the APRC, while nothing is ever heard about the opposition will, no doubt, be very unfair to the opposition.

It will certainly be untrue that the opposition is not doing anything, or that no one ever leaves the APRC to join the opposition.

The very fact that such news is never carried by GRTS is an indication of the biasness of the public media in favour of the APRC, which is certainly a bad omen for a level political playing field.

The Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia guarantees divergent views to be carried in the public media, and everything that will promote that should be encouraged.

It is in that light that we would also like to commend the management of Teranga FM, a community-based radio station, for its effort of promoting the expression of divergent views, especially as we approach the polls.

Since the past two weeks, the community radio has been hosting political party leaders on debates on a wide range of issues relating to the polls.

This will, no doubt, boost the image of the country as a nation where democracy prevail.

As we have always emphasized on these pages, in the build-up to the polls, journalists must learn to conceal their political affiliations and stick at all times to objectivity and balance in their reporting.

All political parties must also be given equal coverage, in both the private and public media.

Selective coverage is anti-thetical to the spirit of good journalism and democracy.

“The highest result of education is tolerance”

Helen Keller