By Tabora Bojang
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has announced plans to introduce a new monitoring system of contents broadcast by media institutions under the purview of the country’s broadcasting regulator.
Pura said the objective of the new system is to promote decency, enhance public morality, national unity and quality programme content amid the rising usage of unpleasant profanities that have the potential to create disunity and societal discord.
“I want to explicitly state that our regulatory measures including monitoring activities are by no means a witch-hunt exercise or to muzzle the media, but rather to promote a degree of quality of broadcast services and encourage standards aligned with the international best practices and encourage cohesion. This ideally, would provide consumers the opportunity to receive, assess and independently analyse information for their personal and public use,” Pura Director General Yusupha M Jobe said.
He was speaking at the opening of a daylong broadcasting stakeholder forum enhancing media professionalism for a successful election. Mr. Jobe said even though the constitution of the Gambia guarantees media pluralism, presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinion, there exist certain limits with regard to upholding public order, public morality and protection of reputations, rights, and freedoms of other people.
“The rising usage of unpleasant and profanities [vulgar language] have the potential to create room for disunity, societal discord and even render the society ungovernable and usually leads to conflicts that have no boundaries”, Pura DG warned.
Jobe who was recently appointed to replace former DG Momodou B Jallow who died in March this year, added that journalists should be seen to be upholding the sacred sanctity of truth and fairness to yield positive impacts instead of inflicting excruciating pains and sufferings on citizenry for financial or personal interest.
“These are exceptions that should be noted and be controlled and ensure that we live in a better society where everybody has the right to decent hearing, right to defence when accused and to be seen innocent until proven guilty,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Solicitor General Hussein Thomasi has claimed that with new technologies and wider outreach, the media is now a target for misinformation, manipulation and in some cases, suppression by interest groups as well as opposing sides trying to control the narrative.
Mr. Thomasi, who made the remarks on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow at the event, said ongoing use of the “internet and other social media platforms as a vehicle to spread and incite hatred against one another is unacceptable and should be condemned.”
He said with all indications of a highly stake election amid the unprecedented political developments in the country, media practitioners should eschew hate speech and exhibit professionalism and ethical standards at all times.
“As a country that has experienced almost two decades of authoritarian rule characterised by massive rights violations and abuses, we should allow the reconciliation process to gain ground and not undermine it. The 22 years of dictatorship has left us as a society polarised and very much in need of healing and reconciliation,” Thomasi pointed out.
Thomas, a former special adviser to the former Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, said elections are all about change or maintenance of the status quo in which conflicts and disagreements are bound to happen.
“Our responsibility as media is to manage the conflict positively and ensure it does not degenerate into violence.”
He stated that while instances of the Rwanda genocide are unlikely to occur elsewhere in the world including The Gambia, the current trend of diatribes “tribal attacks and vilifications of individuals and leaders on the internet and social media, requires a second thought.”
The SG added that while it could be contended that such tendencies are not made by regular media, professional journalists should abstain from becoming vehicles or align themselves for the transmission of such diatribes and deploy means to deal with rumours and speculations to avoid them escalating into conflicts.