Over the past few days, we’ve been trying to watch GRTS news and keep getting a “Weak or no signal” message. It seems the state broadcaster is showing signs of fatigue in its drive to entrench dictatorship and continue to fuel the massive propaganda campaigns with the aim of spreading disinformation within and outside the country. Many people are delighted from having been spared the endless broadcast of Yaya Jammeh’s stage-managed provincial tour with the usual service people from the Immigration, prisons, police, army and school children forming throngs of human shields to protect Jammeh’s motorcade from any possible attack.
These are the very people that are shown on GRTS as thousands of Jammeh’s supporters to fool those living outside of the country to believe that Gambians are so crazy about their president. If every African head of state can turn their service people into civilians and coerce them into human shields to swell the number of their supporters, then presidents in countries with the highest population counts will be able to display massive crowd of loyalists in their national television screens. With such effective propaganda tool it now begs the question, why should the ‘popular’ Yaya Jammeh who has control over the airwaves and the news content of GRTS to feel scared of a tiny number of opposition members who were peacefully demonstrating for a genuine cause? By still refusing to grant bail to all those arrested he is ostensibly trying to destroy the UDP political party.
If soldiers armed with sophisticated weapons is designed to instill a climate of fear, then the state-controlled TV is the powerful weapon in the propaganda campaign to solidify Mr. Jammeh’s hold on power. Gambia has only one TV station and because of the physical way in which television affects the minds and emotions of the people (as they say ‘pictures speak more than one thousand words’), any systematic or institutionalized spreading of information and/or disinformation makes it a perfect vehicle for propaganda and Mr. Jammeh had developed exceptional skills in manipulating and controlling news output and contents at the GRTS. This is exactly what Hitler was doing during his horrible reign of terror. He was using propaganda as a powerful weapon of war and even created a ministry for it.
Contrary to the popular belief, the television project was first conceived by the government of former president Jawara in 1993, one and half year before Yaya Jammeh forcefully took over power from the former president of the first republic. The project feasibility studies was completed and the suppliers Thompson Broadcasting in France were all identified before 1994. However, the main stumble block to kick start the project was the choice of ministry that would spearhead the TV project.
Before the advent of the 1994 coup, Information and Communications were portfolios that were under two different ministries- Information and Tourism; and Works and Communications. The two ministries couldn’t agree on which one should have control over the television and as such the implementation of the television project never got off the ground. So GRTS was never the brainchild of Yaya Jammeh. He found all the ground work completed and GAMTEL was to provide the initial funding. GRTS belongs to no other single person than the ordinary Gambians.
While still refusing to grant broadcasting TV licenses to private individuals or firms when other countries in the sub-region are giving their citizens an impressive array of multiple TV stations, Yaya Jammeh would continue to control the airwaves as a powerful propaganda weapon. This with the sphere of influence he is evidently having over the Observer daily newspapers, we will continue to be kept in the dark days of media manipulation to hide the atrocities and right abuses being perpetrated by Africa’s worst dictator. By having the DG of GRTS to double as the head and Editor-in- Chief of the Observer newspaper, a purportedly privately owned daily paper, leave no doubts that the daily Observer newspaper is also owned and controlled by Yaya Jammeh.
As propaganda become a powerful tool to influence people’s attitude, beliefs and behaviors, and as GRTS continues to be the only state broadcaster throughout the country, we will continue to be mesmerized with dull and repetitive programs about Yaya Jammeh . Monopoly stifles competition which in turn affects the quality of programs we are getting from GRTS. While we wait to see the real problems that is affecting the state broadcaster’s signals, many people with digital decoders are now happy to escape the endless bombardment and misinformation we regularly get from GRTS. Many are now thankful that their satellite discs can provide an alternative vast array of interesting channels gratuitously thus escaping the deliberate use of GRTS as a powerful propaganda tool.
We are in the 21st century and Gambia is yet to have a dedicated sports and other entertainment channels of its own. A vibrant television industry could improve the social and economic situation, and above all, will educate the people and make The Gambia a success story and a self-reliant nation.
Written By An Insider