The Gambia’s government has conceded that the country’s internet law, which prescribes a 15-year prison term and a fine of D3 million ($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, is unconstitutional.
The government made the concession yesterday at the Supreme Court in a lawsuit against them by the Gambia Press Union which started in 2015.
The concessions were just on criminal defamation and false publication on the internet but the Justice Minister said they are contesting false publication and broadcasting.
“The move by the Attorney General is laudable and positive. Gambians are the winners in this case since this move will pave way for citizens of this country to participate in constructive debates that will enlarge our democratic space,” Emil Touray, president of Gambia Press Union said.
Gambia’s reputation as a serious offender of press freedom and freedom of expression was consolidated by this 2013 ‘Nana law,’ which was led by then Information Minister Nana Grey.
A mix of new legislation, ongoing harassment of the independent press, and arrests combined to increase the state’s control of an already weak media sector.
Journalists are frequently arrested and detained on flimsy and superficial charges by the regime of the ex-president, Yahya Jammeh.
Jammeh continued to ignore calls for accountability regarding past cases of murder and abuse targeting journalists and ostracized regional court decisions ordering it to end impunity for past crimes against journalists.
According to Freedom House, Gambian authorities stifle media freedom through a combination of criminal prosecutions, physical intimidation, censorship, and the promotion of government views in state-run or friendly private outlets.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Reporting from Freedom House; Additional Writing and Editing by Sam Phatey)