By Alagie Manneh
The EU Election Observer Mission has lauded the state broadcaster, GRTS, as the most balanced TV station in the 4 December presidential election coverage.
In its final report issued Tuesday in Banjul, the Mission classified the coverages of TV stations such as QTV, Paradise and Eye Africa TV as “significantly biased towards the incumbent”.
“EU EOM media monitoring results show that GRTS provided rather balanced news coverage by devoting 21 per cent to Adama Barrow (NPP), 31 per cent to Ousainu Darboe (UDP), 8 per cent to Essa Faal (independent candidate), 12 per cent to Abdoulie Jammeh (NUP), 12 per cent to Mamma Kandeh (GDC), and 16 per cent to Halifa Sallah (PDOIS). All news coverage by GRTS was positive or neutral in tone,” the report said.
In contrast, the mission said of the other TV stations;
“Monitored commercial TV stations displayed significant bias towards the incumbent. Eye Africa TV covered the GDC, the independent candidate, NPP, NUP, PDOIS and the UDP by devoting 9, 8, 40, 6, 24 and 13 per cent of news coverage, respectively. Paradise TV devoted 11, 16, 37, 7, 15 and 15 per cent news coverage to the listed candidates. QTV virtually covered only the NPP by devoting 92 per cent of its news coverage to Adama Barrow.”
It added that editorial coverage on monitored state and commercial radio, “still considered to be the main source of information, was generally more balanced, with some of the radio stations airing criticism of the incumbent.
“Generally, the amount of editorial coverage in broadcasting was comparatively low. Commercial broadcasters reported a dependence on paid content due to a lack of resources to cover all campaign events equally. None of the monitored TV stations distinguished paid advertising clearly from editorial content.”
The observers said at least two of the monitored newspapers displayed “some balance” in their reporting, while another displayed bias.
They said Facebook, which has some 500,000 users in the country, was the prime discussion forum on the election and that it helped shape the political discourse online and offline. “WhatsApp was instrumental in disseminating the news, campaign messages and in mobilising the electorate, yet it also effectively accelerated the spread of disinformation that fostered political polarisation. Due to the growing popularity among the youth and given that short videos are handy for sharing as an instant message, TikTok had supplanted Twitter. YouTube and Instagram were other channels to reiterate messages already disseminated on Facebook. The main communication language on Facebook and Twitter was English, while Mandinka and Wolof were the preferred languages for WhatsApp voice messages and TikTok videos.”