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Pura demands explanation from King FM radio station

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By Tabora Bojang

Barely a week after President Adama Barrow and his National Peoples Party stalwarts criticised the work of certain unnamed radio stations, national regulator Pura has threatened punitive actions against private radio King FM for “violation of its license terms”.

King FM radio, considered critical of the government received a letter from Pura, the national regulator asking them to give reasons as to why punitive action should not be taken against them on or before 9  May 2023.

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Pura said it was concerned that certain contents broadcast over King FM were “not in-keeping with its licence conditions”, but failed to explain the nature of the contents.

Pura further warned: “The authority wishes to strongly remind King FM’s management that it is mandatory for all radio broadcasting licences to conform to their licence conditions and, present all news in a factually accurate, impartial and non-partisan manner, present current affairs in a balanced, clear, factual, accurate and impartial manner. Note that non-conformance to these licence conditions attracts punitive action against offending entities whoever these may be. In this vein you are hereby asked by the authority to give reasons as to why punitive action should not be taken against you on or before 9  May 2023. Failure to respond by the stipulated date will lead to concrete action against you without any further communications”.

In his reaction, King FM radio news anchor and producer, Ebrima Jarra denied any wrongdoing and said they are being targeted for their “independent reporting”.

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Mr Jarra accused the regulator of acting under political directives.

“After the councillor’s election militants of the ruling NPP have been calling for the closure of the radio [King FM] and another radio in Brikama for being responsible for their abysmal performance in the elections and they were effectively blaming Pura and the ministry of information for not doing their job. What baffles us and all concerned citizens is that how can Pura write to us as an institution without citing the content of the programme that they are relying on to take punitive actions against us. And why would they wait until journalists around the world are busy reflecting on World Press Freedom Day to come with a statement to restrict and prevent an independent radio station from doing what is expected of them? It clearly shows that Pura has no interest in fair play and this act has ruined its impartiality as a responsible institution that should be giving fair reports on issues of radios and broadcasting matters,” Jarra said

The president of the Gambia Press Union Muhammed Bah told The Standard that the Pura letter is not only considered a threat but is also ambiguous since it does not specify what violations were being committed by King FM.

“I think Pura should use a better approach towards addressing the issue of ethics. Yes, no media or media worker is above the law or ethical conduct but there is a way of addressing it. This letter is so ambiguous and no specific issue is mentioned with regards to what violation King FM does. We have the Media Council of The Gambia which deals with content and ethics. So anytime Pura has an issue it should address it through the council instead of threatening media houses. This does not look good especially on a day that journalists are marking press freedom day,” he said.

Mr Bah said the union has already reached out to Pura to open dialogue on the matter and avoid its escalation. 

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