The Gambia’s press is set to win unprecedented freedom when its new government overhauls the constitution of former leader Yahya Jammeh.
As the West African nation enters a new era of democracy, President Adama Barrow and Attorney General Aboubacarr Tambadou reiterated their commitment to ending human rights abuses in the country and removing restrictive media laws.
“We will be starting a constitutional review process with a view to ensuring that our constitution is relevant and serves the purpose for which Gambians adopted it,” said Tambadou, a former UN assistant prosecutor.
Reform “particularly in the criminal justice sector and media law reform,” were priorities, he said.
Journalists were regularly slapped with crimes including sedition, slander and publication of false news under Jammeh, offences described as “catch-all” by Amnesty International, and many served jail time.
“Bad media laws have no place in our statute books and it is the resolve of this government to enact laws that will facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in a responsible manner,” said Mr. Tambadou.
Tambadou, who met with the local press union president, Emil Touray, assured that any media law that is inconsistent with the letter of the spirit of the constitution shall not be enforced.
Gambian journalists have been campaigning for Criminal Defamation and sedition laws to be axed. The press union has petition the Supreme Court to rule that the laws are unconstitutional.
Gambia’s new government says reforming the criminal justice system that has been used in ‘bad faith severally’ by the former regime is its foremost priority.
“The criminal justice has been abused to a point that it is no longer credible and that is a top priority for my ministry,” Tambadou said.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Reporting from AFP; Editing by Sam Phatey)