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New report highlights draconian media laws

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Dakar, 18.04.2012 - ARTICLE 19 has found significant flaws in the laws regulating the media and free speech in the Gambia, as well as persistent harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders.

“The Gambia is at odds with all its international commitments on free expression,” said Fatou Jagne Senghore, ARTICLE 19 Regional Representative for West Africa.

“People need space to speak out and contribute without fear to the public debate and the media will only be able to play its critical role if the legal and physical security of journalists and human rights defenders is adequately guaranteed,” she added.

Over the past ten years, the legal framework regulating the media and free speech in the Gambia has been reviewed several times to tighten permitted expression and reduce the ability of the media and human rights defenders to conduct critical reporting and speak out.

ARTICLE 19's new report finds fundamental flaws in the legislation that are incompatible with The Gambia's obligations under international and regional standards on freedom of expression.

Problematic provisions include: the registration requirements for newspapers; the overly broad nature of speech-related offences (including seditious libel, criminal defamation, and publication of false news) in the Criminal Code, the lack of independence of broadcasting regulator and the provisions of the Information and Communications Act 2009 which unduly interfere with online communication.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the continuous violations of the right to freedom of expression in the Gambia, in particular the lack of media independence and daily harassment, arbitrary arrests and violence against journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. The Gambian Government should urgently address these serious violations.

Read the full legal analysis

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