Amnesty International is calling for the repeal of a range of draconian laws that have been used by the regime of the former president, Yahya Jammeh to curb the right to freedom of expression in Gambia.
Jammeh’s government help passed the “Nana law” banning criticism of officials and laws prohibiting the “publication of false news”.
Journalists, such as Terenga FM’s Alhagie Ceesay and SMBC’s Alhagie Jobe, were targeted under these laws – tortured and prosecuted. At least two journalists have been murdered and hundreds of journalists fled into exile during Jammeh’s rule.
In 2013, a former journalist and Information Minister Nana Grey-Johnson led efforts to amend the Information and Communications Act to introduce a 15-year prison term and a fine of 3 million dalasi ($70,000) for anyone convicted of using the internet to spread false news, make derogatory statements, incite dissatisfaction, or instigate violence against the government or public officials.
Gambia’s local union for journalists and rights groups now say new President Adama Barrow’s government should ensure that Gambians will always be able to express their opinion or criticism of government without fear of recrimination.
“In his first 100 days President Adama Barrow has already ordered the release of many people imprisoned simply for expressing their opinion. Now his government should ensure that Gambians will always be able to express their opinion or criticism of government without fear of recrimination,” said Amnesty International’s Alioune Tine.
Barrow’s government is establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address Gambia’s history of extensive human rights violations and abuses.
Activists are calling on authorities to ensure the prosecution of those found to be directly involved in torturing journalists and took part in their killing.
Gambia’s Justice Minister, Aboubcarr Tambadou is engaging former officials of such commissions in neighboring Sierra Leone and South Africa to develop a strategy for proper accountability for serious violations of human rights such as torture and enforced disappearances, including those that Amnesty International documented during Yahya Jammeh’s regime.
Tambadou, a former UN prosecutor said steps are being taken to strengthen the justice system to ensure that international fair trial standards are respected.