INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION
These Rules are established to provide for fair access to the media for all political parties and candidates over the electoral period. The IEC shall, during an election campaign period, ensure that equal airtime is given to each candidate and national party on the public radio and television (Section 93 of the Elections Act). It also has general powers to regulate the conduct of elections (Section 134). Special provision is also made to provide regulation on the maximum political air-time which may be used by any candidate on privately owned radio stations (see Rule 2) to reduce any advantage to a candidate with significantly more financial resources than another candidate. However, the IEC has not deemed it necessary at this stage to provide financial limits on party political advertising in the print media. All media outlets are reminded of the provisions of the Elections Act, particularly Sections 90-96, and the Code on Election Campaign Ethics.
Media organisations and journalists are urged to apply the spirit of these Rules immediately and to continue to do so after the declaration of results. For the avoidance of doubt, it should be stated that private Radio Stations or the Print Media may carry party political advertisements immediately. Media outlets should apply the provisions as set out the Rules below from Friday 31st March, 2023 to Thursday 13th April, 2023 (both days inclusive) for Councillorship Elections and from Friday 5th May, 2023 to Thursday 18th May, 2023 for Mayoral/Chairmanship Elections.
All journalists are urged to abide by the minimum standards of ethics set out in these Rules.
PART A: RULES
These Rules are issued with reference to section 93, and under section 134 of the Elections Act. The Rules come into force upon the proclamation of election for the Presidential Election, and apply until the declaration of the result of the elections.
RULES RELATING TO THE PUBLIC MEDIA
- This section shall apply to all media organisations, radio, TV and Print, owned by the state, called in these Rules the “Public Media”.
- The Director of Gambia Radio and Television Services shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that there is no undue party political advantage given in the Public Media to the party or a candidate, who is a member of the political party in government.
- Without prejudice to the generality of this obligation, the Director shall establish Internal Guidelines to ensure that the Public Media distinguishes the genuineness and value of actions taken by government in its official capacity in contrast to electioneering. These Guidelines shall be submitted to the IEC for approval, be published, and come into force no later than 31st March, 2023 for Councillorship Elections and 5th May, 2023 for Mayoral/Chairperson Elections. All members of Public Media Organisations shall follow the approved Guidelines in good faith.
- Gambia Radio and Television Services shall allocate to each candidate, free of charge for airtime, a “Party Political Broadcast” of up to 5 minutes of TV and 5 minutes of radio time (including all languages), over the election campaign period. If any candidate does not use the full allocation, this shall not mean that the times of other candidates must be reduced accordingly. The allocated time of 5 minutes shall be subject to change by the IEC following consultations with the Director of Gambia Radio and Television Services, provided that any change shall apply equally to all candidates.
- The order for Party Political Broadcasts shall be determined by the Director, in consultation with the parties, so as to ensure equal coverage at prime times. Where any dispute cannot be solved by the Director, the allocation of time shall be by draw of lots, in the presence of a staff member and/or a nominee of the IEC.
- Public media organisations shall afford equal facilities for production of Party Political Broadcasts, to all candidates.
- Within the limits of its resources, the Public Media shall ensure fair and equal coverage of political events, such as speeches, rallies, launches etc. The parties shall liaise closely with the Public Media, to ensure sufficient notice is given to enable reasonable coverage of all major events.
- Disclaimers can accompany Party Political Broadcasts, indicating that they are carried free as a public service. This should be done equally for all candidates.
ALLOCATIONS OF AIR TIME ON PRIVATE RADIO STATIONS
- No private radio station, other than those approved by the IEC under Sections 94 and 95 of the Election Act, shall carry political advertisements. It is not required for each station to charge the same as another station, but no station shall differentiate between candidates in its charges, discounts, etc.
- Each station shall only carry party political advertisements for a maximum of 10 minutes per candidate per day.
- Nothing in these Rules shall affect a station’s rights to cover news or engage in political commentary and analysis (see section on General Ethics).
- Radio Stations accepting advertisements for political advertising shall before airing any such advertisement, send true copies of all invoices and receipts of payment(s) when made, to The Chairman, IEC, Box 793, Banjul.
SPECIAL PROVISIONS FOR THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN
No party political publication or advertisement shall be carried by the Public or Private Media (on air or in print) in The Gambia, following the close of the campaign at midnight on Thursday 13th April, 2023 for Councillorship Elections and Thursday 18th May for Mayoral/Chairmanship Elections. This does not affect analysis, news, or information concerning the elections themselves, provided such coverage is balanced, objective, and in good faith; and that it is not in any way a continuation of campaigning. Special attention shall be given by all members of the Public Media to ensure compliance with these provisions.
PART B: MEDIA GUIDELINES FOR CANDIDATES TO HAVE THEIR CAMPAIGN MATERIAL BROADCAST ON RADIO AND TELEVISION.
- Candidates shall use the time allocated to them on public radio and television to present their programme and ideas to the Gambian electorate, and not to criticise other candidates.
- Candidates shall not make unsubstantiated allegations (such as referring to another person as a thief in the absence of a conviction in a court of law).
- Candidates shall refrain from using language that is inflammatory, defamatory or insulting or which constitutes an incitement to public disorder, insurrection, hate, or violence.
- Candidates must be tolerant of constructive and objective criticism of their public record and policies.
- Candidates shall in no way promote division among the Gambian people, using ethnic, religious or regional differences.
PART C: GENERAL ETHICS FOR ALL JOURNALISTS AND THE MEDIA WITHIN ELECTION PERIOD
- These ethics are set out to encourage high standards of journalism over the election period, not as binding legal requirements. Should there be abuse of the ethics, however, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) is urged to use its special influence to ensure that journalists adhere to high standards of ethics and integrity.
- During election activity, journalists have a responsibility to the electorate to encourage potential voters to participate in the democratic process.
- Journalists and media organisations’ obligations are not only professionalism, but require ethical judgement to ensure public confidence in the electoral system. Journalists should not engage in undemocratic practices, such as serving as propaganda outlets, engaging in double standards, refusing to correct errors without prompting or failing to be equally critical in their analysis and reporting.
- Journalists and media organisations should provide fair, accurate and comprehensive information to enable citizens to make intelligent political decisions, and give fair opportunity to citizens to express divergent views. This means that the media should endeavour to give information and also to create opportunities for citizens to express themselves freely within the law. Personal and political commentary by journalists and organisations is of course, encouraged, but it should be clearly distinguished from news and factual reporting.