Ebrima Jarra, King FM Star Presenter & Yusupha M Jobe Director General PURA
On the day we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, King FM Radio received a letter from PURA, the Gambia government media regulatory and licensing authority, demanding that King FM Radio justify their actions or face unspecified punitive action.
The letter did not cite any specific complaints against King FM Radio, but made vague references to concerns the authority has over what they called certain contents broadcast over King FM.
“The Authority, through its monitoring of all content on regulated FM radio, is concerned to note that certain contents broadcast over King FM are not in keeping with your license conditions.” PURA started off in their missive to King FM.
The letter also reminded King FM’s management of the conditions attached to their licenses, which state that they must “present all news in a factually accurate, impartial, and non-partisan manner” and “present current affairs in a balanced, clear, factual, accurate, and impartial manner.”
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In addition, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) warned King FM that any non-compliance with the license conditions will result in punitive action against the entity in violation.
“Note that nonconformance to these license conditions, attracts punitive action, against offending entities, whoever this may be.”
The letter from PURA has raised concerns about press freedom in the Gambia. The Gambia has a history of government censorship, and the PURA letter asking King FM to give reasons why punitive action shouldn’t be taken against them without outlining any specific instances of license violation sends a quivering message across the media fraternity that an unnecessary clampdown is underway.
“In this vein, you are hereby asked by the authority to give reason as to why punitive action should not be taken against you on or before the 9th of May 2023. Failure to respond by the stipulated date will lead to concrete action taken against you without further communication.” – PURA concluded their letter sent to King FM earlier today.
Reacting to the PURA letter, Ebrima Jarra, one of the presenters at King FM, took to his Facebook page to defend the actions of his media house. He posited that the PURA letter is a reaction to constant calls by militants of the ruling National People’s Party for the government to close down King FM radio station.
“After NPP Militants’ endless calls for the Closure of King FM Radio, The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has finally written to the Management of the Radio seeking answers as to why they should not take punitive actions against the radio.” Jarra wrote on his Facebook page.
He vowed that King FM will reply to PURA in due course, and also pledged that they will continue to broadcast “free, fair and unbiased news to all”
“Yes, the authority will receive a reply from us as expected.One thing that stands out is, The Gambia is a country of law and no amount of threats or harassment will prevent us from doing our job. We remain resolute and committed to the course of broadcasting free, fair and unbiased news to all.” he said.
Ebrima Jarra reiterated their commitment to their journalistic mission of reporting on and holding people in power accountable in the public interest.
“We will not relent in our efforts to hold the government to account for the wider interest of all. ” Jarra stated.
The threat of punitive action against King FM Radio for unspecified violations is a serious concern for press freedom in the Gambia. The country has a long history of government censorship and intimidation of the media, and the current government has pledged to protect press freedom. However, recent statements made by the president at an Eid al-Fitr meeting with religious leaders, in which he said that media houses, especially community radio stations, should be kept in check, have cast an ominous shadow over the PURA letter. If King FM Radio is forced to close or suspended due to political interference, it would be a major setback for the Gambia’s fledgling democracy.
The World Press Freedom Day is a day to celebrate the freedom of the press and to raise awareness of the challenges that journalists face around the world. The letter from PURA to King FM Radio is a reminder that press freedom is still under threat in the Gambia and many parts of the world.
We have reached out to PURA for their reaction, but as we go to press, our efforts have proven futile. We will publish their reaction as soon as we get it.