GRTS Should Correct its Ways
Friday, November 04, 2011
sadly, it has become a norm, rather than an exception in The Gambia that opposition parties access our publicly funded media outlets only during the electoral commission’s declared campaign period of elections.
For instance, the last time some opposition leaders appeared on state-owned television was during 2006 presidential elections.
Thus, when the Independent Electoral Commission infamously reduced the election campaign period from over two weeks in 2006 presidential elections to just eleven days this year, the opposition parties decried about it and requested for a review of that decision of IEC.
The allocated campaign period is grossly inadequate. If anything, it should have been increased because the number of registered voters have increased by nearly two hundred thousand.
This means, political parties would have to reach out to more voters in this year’s election than they did in 2006. This therefore requires more time and more resources.
However, IEC refused to grant their request even when it is clear to the electoral commission that the political equilibrium is very unbalanced and it is unacceptably swinging in favour of the ruling party, who uses and abuses the state media even when opposition parties are denied access.
It is however worth mentioning here that although the campaign period remains as scheduled, GRTS has started covering the activities of some opposition parties.
The radio section of GRTS recently paid host to opposition leaders. The television section has also covered the political rally of opposition-UDP in Bakau on Saturday.
One might be tempted to consider these moves by GRTS as a milestone, but the reality is that GRTS does not deserve to be commended here.
The signing of the memorandum of understanding among four political parties for a united opposition front is as well of utmost importance to the tax payers of this country, but there was no coverage by the publicly funded media outlets. Not even the election of the presidential candidate for the united opposition front.
Even the way the television presented the activities of opposition-UDP’s Bakau rally leaves much to be desired. The substance of the meeting has been left out.
It is basic in good news coverage to give fair play to all sides of the event. When one cannot have the sound bite, as in the case of the unlettered people, one can judge from the video footages.
It is however ridiculous to hear the reporter saying that the party leader was given a fitting welcome when the video shows empty seats, apparently taken before the heat of the meeting.
It is one thing to provide coverage of an event, but another thing to present balanced and unbiased story. This point should be brought up and dealt with now before the campaign period.
The tax payers of this country should be aided, by publicly funded media outlets in particular, to have benefits of what living in an information society entails.
They, more than anybody else have every right to know about the alternative policies and programmes of opposition parties.
This will make it possible for them to make informed decisions on matters of national importance such as electing their representatives.
Gambians have been unequivocal about the absence of divergent views and dissenting opinions over the public media.
We are a multi party society. Our organs of mass communication should be rooted in that reality and should exploit the situation to the benefit of the people.
It therefore amounts to a gross violation of constitution to ignore the provisions on the use of public media no matter what the circumstances are.
While it might be expedient in terms of survival in the system to carry on as if only one political party matters and portraying other parties as skeletons, it is legally and professionally suicidal to do so.