FILE PHOTO: Supporters are seen during Gambia's President Adama Barrow swearing-in and Gambia independence day ceremony at Independence Stadium, in Bakau, Gambia February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Gambia rated free country after two decades of repression

Unless you live in the Gambia or East Timor, chances are you are less free today than you were a year ago. That, at least, is the takeaway of Freedom House’s just-released.

Citizens in the Gambia are enjoying freedom after over two decades of highhanded reign by former president Yahya Jammeh, a report published by Freedom House on Tuesday has stated.

According to a recent report released by U.S. based pro-democracy outlet Freedom House, The Gambia had moved from the status of ‘not free’ to partially free.’

However, a similar report by the pro-democracy institution published in November on internet freedom in the country said the status is still not free.

The current report which is on general freedom pinned the change squarely on the exit of Jammeh and efforts of the Adama Barrow – led government.

They also mentioned competitive legislative elections held in April 2017. Jammeh’s party recorded massive losses in the polls.

With the departure of former president Yahya Jammeh, exiled journalists and activists returned, political prisoners were released, ministers declared their assets to an ombudsman, and the press union began work on media-sector reform.

In a summarized explanation of how The Gambia’s status changed, the report said: “The Gambia’s status improved from Not Free to Partly Free, its political rights rating improved from 6 to 4, and its civil liberties rating improved from 6 to 5 due to the installation of newly elected president Adama Barrow into office in January and the holding of competitive legislative elections in April.

“Among other openings associated with the departure of former president Yahya Jammeh, exiled journalists and activists returned, political prisoners were released, ministers declared their assets to an ombudsman, and the press union began work on media-sector reform.”

Demba Kandeh, a journalism lecturer at the Gambia University who does research for the pro-democracy group, said the ratings would have been better if deeper reforms were undertaken by the Barrow administration.

“Gambia’s position has changed on environmental scores but generally it does not because we still have a lot of laws in place and some necessary institutional reforms are not yet done,” Kandeh said.

Barrow recently received a doctorate from the University of The Gambia but said he wanted to maintain his title “mister.” He is seen as a more modest president as compared to his predecessor who had a series of titles to his name.

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