The Gambia Press Union (GPU) is calling on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
(PURA) to dismiss the petition submitted by the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC) against the application for Television Broadcasting License by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at.
As the Authority mandated to regulate the broadcast industry, PURA is required by Section 230 (5) of the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013 to publish all publications received in relation to Television Broadcasting License.
Accordingly, upon receipt of Ahmadiya Muslim Jammat’s application, PURA has published the notice in accordance with Section 230 (6) of the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013, which required PURA to invite petition from interested persons, who seek to oppose grant of license to the applicant.
On Monday January, in accordance with notice in accordance of Section 230 (6) of the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013, the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, petitioned PURA to reject Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at’s application for Television Broadcasting License. The Council argued that since the Jama’at is outside the pale of Islam, granting them license will allow them to pollute Muslim
It is important to note that the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013 places regulation of broadcasting; transmission and content under PURA, which was established in 2014.
However, issuance of television and radio license rests with the Minister for Information and Communication Infrastructure (MoICI). Section 230(1) provides that ‘the Minister, on the advice of the Authority, shall issue broadcasting licenses in sufficient numbers to meet the public demand for broadcasting services.
Similarly, sections 232 provide that upon recommendation by the Authority, the Minister ‘may’ renew, revoke or suspend a broadcasting license. PURA therefore merely has an advisory role whilst the ultimate decision-making power rests with the
In light of the above, the Gambia Press Union is of the considered view that whist the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council might have acted within the law, the Council’s petition lack any legal basis or reasonable justification. The Authority is hereby urged not to give any favourable consideration to the petition in advising the Minister. The petition should be rejected on the following grounds:
Equality before the law
The 1997 Constitution of the Gambia dictates that all persons are equal before the law. The state therefore is obliged to treat all persons equal, regardless of their religion. In fact the law of the land preaches against any form of discrimination based on religion.
The Gambia is a Secular Republic
The 1997 Constitution of the Gambia recognises Gambia as a sovereign secular republic. The state and its agencies are obliged by law not to promote one religion over another.
The Constitution Guarantees freedom of speech, and of the press for all Section 25 (1) of the Constitution of The Gambia states that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media.
The Gambia’s commitment to international obligation
The Gambia is a signatory to the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Each of these international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression in the following terms:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. n the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, the African Human Rights Commission enjoins state parties shall encourage diverse, independent private broadcasting ; there shall be equitable allocation of frequencies between private broadcasting uses, both commercial and community. The Declaration says that licenses processes shall be fair and transparent, and shall be responsible for issuing broadcasting licenses…
Freedom of expression imposes an obligation on the authorities to take positive measures to promote diversity, which include among other things availability and promotion of a range of information and ideas to the public; pluralistic access to the media and other means of communication, including by vulnerable or marginalised groups…
No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression. Any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary and in a democratic society.
Regional and International Standards: denying the SIC TV license to the Ahmadiyya on the basis of their religion contravenes international standards of freedom of expression. The special rapporteur on freedom of expression says….The UN Human Rights Committee also says
The GPU therefore calls on PURA to process each application according to the laid down procedures and not based on religious sentiments.
The Supreme Islamic Council is called upon to promote religious tolerance, which shall include allowing other religious groups to exercise freedom of expression.