Monday, August 2, 2021

GPU Program Manager Says PURA’s Message to Media Houses Constitute a Threat to Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression

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By Nelson Manneh

Lamin Jahateh the Program Manager at The Gambia Press Union said PURA’s Press Release regarding the use of abusive language on radio station is a clear threat to press freedom and freedom of expression.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has recently raised concern with the use of abusive language on radio stations.

PURA released a statement indicating that the Authority was concern over the proliferation of abusive, uncouth and incendiary language on some radio stations in the country.

PURA in their Press Release indicated, ‘All’ radio station owners are hereby warned to devise programming as per the tenets of the IC Act, Individual Radio Station Licenses and the Broadcasting Code of Conduct. Failure to do so shall result in enforcement action against default licensees as per the provisions of the PURA Act, IC Act and relevant broadcasting regulations.”

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Jahateh said they are aware that PURA has the legal mandate to regulate content for the broadcast media and as such it is ok to intervene where the journalism code of conduct is violated.

However, the GPU Program Manager said PURA could have written to the media houses concerned to bring their attention to the ethical breach so that internal corrective actions could be taken.

“By issuing a threat-loaded ‘final warning’ without making specific reference to any media house or program, PURA is merely using its regulatory weight to oppress the media houses for giving people divergent and dissenting opinions and an opportunity to be heard through phone-in programs,” he said.

Mr. Jahateh said it is worrying that PURA is setting a trend towards restriction on press freedom and freedom of expression when they are in fact supposed to ‘regulate’ the media to afford voices of dissent an opportunity to be heard.

“As a progressive, not fault-finding, regulator, PURA could simply engage the radio stations to endeavour to get live broadcast delay equipment to be able to filter certain offensive, libellous or profane call-in contributions, if the abuse of the phone-in opportunity is getting rampant and widespread,” he concluded.

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