Gambia media faces Barrow government in court

The Gambia Press Union will face the new government of Adama Barrow Tuesday at country’s constitutional court when the Union challenges laws that criminalize free speech in the small nation.

The case which was supposed to be heard on Monday was canceled due to the swearing-in of new judges to occupy the benches at the Supreme Court.

“The court is inundated with cases. I expect the hearing to be later. Tuesday is just for mentioning and we will likely be told when it will be heard again,” president of the GPU, Bai Emil Touray said.

The Union is challenging the constitutionality of two major unfriendly laws to the media, which are sedition and false publication and broadcasting.

They are also challenging the constitutionality of false publication on the internet, a new digital law, which was tabled by former information minister Nana Grey Johnson before lawmakers in 2013.

Media and press freedom activists call it the Nana Law, which happens to be the toughest law Yahya Jammeh instituted in the country to muzzle the media.

The Union is also challenging the constitutionality of the criminal defamation law, which limits or makes it impossible to criticize public officials.

This lawsuit was first made about three years ago by the Union but it could not be heard by the Supreme Court because of the absence of judges.

It was believed that it is one of the reasons why the former autocratic ruler Jammeh finds it undesirable to impanel the Supreme Court.

Gambia’s Supreme Court on Monday swore in four new judges, which completes the panel of seven and the GPU’s case against the state is expected to be heard Tuesday.

Barrow’s administration has promised press freedom and his communications and justice ministers, Demba Jawo and Aboubacarr Tambadou, have had several engagements with GPU towards that direction.

However, the Union thought it wise to first get the constitutional court to declare these unfriendly laws to the media as unconstitutional.

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