ADDRESS ON THE STATE OF THE MEDIA COUNCIL
ADDRESS ON THE STATE OF THE MEDIA COUNCIL
The Media Council of The Gambia (MCG) was established by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) in December 2018 as an independent self-regulatory body for the media industry in The Gambia. The launch coincided with the anniversary of the murder of Deyda Hydara.
The process to set up the Council started in 2017 as part of the media sector reforms facilitated jointly by the Government of The Gambia through MoICI and media groups led by GPU.
Consultations have been made with relevant government entities, media practitioners, journalism students, civil society and private sector, leading to the development of the model which is suited for the needs of the country.
The GPU had looked at several models in the process of establishing the Council which included statutory, self-regulatory and co-regulation before settling for self-regulation.
The Council’s mission is to protect the credibility of the media through the consideration, investigation and resolution of complaints about the breaches of the Code of Conduct or any other relevant law; to monitor, record and publish compliance of ethical standards; promote and ensure adherence with the Code; provide non-binding guidance to regulated media entities, including the establishment of internal forms of regulation; publish papers, journals and newsletters and other materials; and encourage media development in the Gambia.
The GPU’s Code of Code which provides guidelines and ethical standards for all categories of news media, is the working tool for the Council and the Ethics Panel in resolving complaints. Its is hoped that the Council will facilitate the establishment of a public trusted media in the country.
The membership of the Council are media regulated entities These members are the subjects of the jurisdiction of the Ethics Panel. The Council’s organs are the Governing Council, Ethics Panel and the Secretariat. The 11-member governing council is at the apex of the Council’s hierarchy, which is responsible for policy formulation and general guidance of the Council; the Ethics Panel hears and determines complaints on ethical issues and the breaches of the Code of Conduct; and the Secretariat receives complaints and undertakes general administration of the Council. Currently, all the organs of the Council are functioning.
Benefits of Self-Regulation
Self-regulation is the new buzz in media regulation. Its benefits are overwhelming for the media and the public. Few of its benefits are: preventing government or state apparatus from interfering extensively with the media; providing alternative to courts for resolving complaints on media contents, and providing a no-cost complaint resolution process. Whereas state or government regulation have been observed to be heavy-handed, inflexible, punitive, expensive and procedurally cumbersome, self- regulation on the other hand is flexible as its processes are tailor-made to the industry.
The Gambia media practitioners, working closely with the government and other media stakeholders, have chosen the path of self-regulation of the media in the Gambia. The choice of self-regulation over state regulation will engender the promotion of an independent and free media as well as upholding the highest ethical standards by the media and its practitioners. But I must add, this self-regulatory process can work for the media only when the media practitioners and entities submit themselves to it and comply with its decisions and recommendations.
What have been undertaken so far?
After the launching of the Media Council on December 2018, the first Executive Secretary and Governing Council members undertook courtesy calls on critical stakeholders such as the EU, the British High Commission, the American Embassy and others to introduce the Council and explore possible funding. It is hope that in the near future, funding would come to the Council so that its novel objectives would be pursued.
The Ethics Panel is now constituted by three eminent personalities who are persons of great expertise and experience. As their work was cut out for them, they had begun receiving and hearing complaints. So far, the Council received two complaints and both of them are at their advance stage in the adjudicatory process. The beauty of the self-regulatory process is that parties do not bear any material and financial cost in filing and/or hearing of their complaints.
Support to the Media Council
The setting up of the Media Council was largely supported by grant support from the United Nations Democracy Fund. The UNDP has also supported the Council to develop Rules of Procedure.
The Council is now a reality for the media and must survive the test of time. It is our collective duty to make it succeed in promoting and upholding the highest ethical standards in the media. It’s our responsibility to submit and adhere to the lawful dictates of the Council and the Panel in order to avoid seeing media practitioners and media houses in protracted civil and criminal cases in the courts.
In the coming months, the Council will build bridges and forge mutual beneficial alliances and collaboration in the interest and development of a free and independent media in The Gambia. The Council will continue to make courtesy calls, seek funding from donors and support groups, and develop and sign Memorandum of Understanding with similar regulatory bodies.
Executive Secretary, Media Council of The Gambia