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Hamat Bah Alleges D.A Jawo Granted TV Licenses to GSM Operators Without Cabinet Approval

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Hamat NK Bah, Lands Minister

By Ramatoulie Jawo 

Honorable Hamat NK. Bah, the Minister of Lands, Regional Government, and Religious Affairs, alleged on Tuesday that Demba Ali Jawo, the former Minister of Information, issued TV licenses to GSM operators without cabinet approval.

According to Bah, during Jawo’s tenure as Minister of Information, the cabinet decided against issuing licenses to GSM operators. However, Jawo allegedly ignored this decision and issued licenses to Q Group and Africell.

Minister Bah made these allegations at a joint press conference held by the Ministry of Information at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center in Bijilo.

“You can’t own a huge GSM company and own a TV, and a Radio station. How will the media get money to pay for advertisements? The GSM companies are supposed to be paying the million dalasis to the media houses for them to build capacity, grow and make money. Cabinet takes decisions, not issue licenses to the GSM companies, so that the advertisement industry will grow and make money, and the media will make money. When D.A Jawo was Minister; as a senior journalist, he was listening to me when we came back to the cabinet and asked the question. He said we had already issued a license, even though we had asked them not to issue one. Today, you are victims of that decision because will Qcell come to pay for advertisement from you? No, because they have a TV and Radio, and Africell also has a Radio. Where will you get money? D.A Jawo is from your own Industry,” he alleged.

Bah further criticized Jawo for not doing enough to support the media during his time as Information Minister.

He emphasized that media outlets need funds to train their staff, upgrade their facilities, and improve their operations. Bah stressed the importance of government resources in helping media houses build capacity and enhance their professionalism.

Hon. Bah stated that enhancing the capabilities of the media will significantly improve the quality and functioning of the media in the country.

He believes that if other countries have successfully achieved this, Gambia can too, by collaborating with the Gambia Press Union to explore revenue generation and support for the media.

Additionally, Hon. Bah mentioned that the president has instructed him to allocate land to certain media houses to help lower their rental expenses.

“The President directed me a few weeks ago to make sure that some media houses are given land because they are paying huge amounts of money on rent. I have already directed a unit within the Ministry of Lands to handle that process to make sure we provide land for these media houses to reduce their rental costs,” he told the press

In response to Hon. Hamat Bah’s allegations, Damba Ali Jawo addressed the issue on his Facebook page, clarifying that all license applications for TV and radio operations were thoroughly discussed and approved in the cabinet. He stated that it is incorrect to claim he went against a cabinet recommendation by issuing a license to the Q Group.

Jawo argued that the Q Group created a legally distinct entity, Core Broadcasting and Multimedia Company Limited, which met all licensing criteria according to PURA. He emphasized that previous precedents allowed for such licenses and that his decisions were legally sound and based on due diligence.

“While I agree that it may not be quite ideal to issue broadcast licenses to GSM companies, but there were some mitigating factors that warranted the issuing of those licenses. In the first place, it was not QCell that applied for the licenses, but the Q Group created a separate company (Core Broadcasting and Multimedia Company Limited) that applied for the licenses and which was legally different from the GSM company. Therefore, there was no legal basis to deny that company a license because, according to due diligence carried out by PURA, it met all the criteria to be issued one. Who am I to go against the recommendations of the technical experts? 

“Another mitigating factor was that precedence had already been created when another GSM company was issued with a license to operate a radio station a few years earlier,” said DA Jawo. 

D.A. Jawo remarked that, as a cabinet minister, Mr. Bah should have been aware that the information minister was the very last cog in the wheel of issuing an operating license to a media house. 

“I depended entirely on the advice of the technicians, especially PURA, whose mandate it is to carry out due diligence in order to determine who has met the criteria to be issued a broadcast license. Therefore, Mr. Bah was quite unfair to accuse me of going against the recommendations of the cabinet, because that was not the case.”

He stated that, in his view, the process adhered to legal requirements; otherwise, PURA would not have recommended issuing licenses for QTV, QRadio, and all the other media licenses he signed as a minister.

“Ironically, his statement was being covered live by QTV, which, according to him, should never have been given a license to operate. Mr. Bah also seems to have insinuated that I had a personal interest in issuing those licenses, but I would challenge anyone to come up with any shred of evidence that I benefited from any of the broadcast licenses that I had approved,” he stressed. 

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