As part of this year’s celebration of World Press Freedom Day, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) has called on the Government to repeal all the existing draconian media laws to enable the journalists to practice freely without intimidation.
In a meeting with journalists on Monday, the GPU president, Sheriff Bojang, said there is a correlation between the persistent toxic socio-political context in The Gambia and the unfriendly environment born out of the legislation against the media.
The President of the GPU said the long-awaiting reforms to remove the repressive media laws in The Gambia continue to drag four years onto the post-Yahya Jammeh rule. The Gambia Media Law Review Committee submitted a final to the Ministry of Information and Communications in May 2018.
It made recommendations for the review and amendment of existing anti-media laws such as the “Information and Communications Act of 2009“, the “Criminal Code of 1933“, the “Indemnity Act of 2001“, the “GRTS Act of 2004“, the “Telegraph Stations Act of 1990“, the “Officials Secrets Act of 1922” as well as the “Newspaper and Broadcasting Stations Act of 1944“.
These laws are problematic and contain disturbing provisions that are not in line with international norms, standards, and democracy on free press and free speech.
“Four years on, none of these laws have been successfully amended. Several bills seeking to repeal these laws have been in parliament, gathering dust while the government has taken no concrete steps towards repealing or amending the rest of the anti-free press laws,” GPU’s Sheriff Bojang fumed.
The bill on Access to Information is still at the National Assembly, one year on. He added.
The theme adopted by UNESCO for this year’s Press Freedom Day is “Information as a Public Good.” Given the reality of the media environment in The Gambia as the country readies for elections, the GPU has chosen a local theme: “Safety of Journalists is Imperative for Credibility of Elections.”
Sheriff Bojang said the recent political rhetoric from the State House in Banjul about the media is disturbing. “The president’s accusation of journalists of biased and unfavorable coverage is a stark reminder of how the Jammeh government gradually started his onslaught against the media.”
The Gambia Press Union’s President, Sheriff Bojang
The GPU president recalled that the police and politicians, including supporters of the president, have perpetrated all the attacks against journalists over the past four years. Meanwhile, President Adama Barrow’s government carried no serious investigation into the attacks on journalists.
The climate of impunity for crimes against journalists persists, according to Sheriff Bojang. “Our records show that in less than four years, more than 15 incidents of physical assault on journalists and media professionals occurred,” the GPU president disclosed.
Therefore, as the country goes into the first post-dictatorship presidential election in December, the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity remain a concern to the Press Union, hence the local theme “Safety of Journalists Imperative for Credibility of Elections,” Sheriff stressed.
“The politicians, by their words and actions, continue to incite their followers against journalists. As part of our efforts to tackle this unfortunate trend, the GPU has developed and submitted a position paper to the government through the Minister of Information,” the media rights defender said.
Sheriff Bojang informed journalists that the Union had made a case, based on evidence and insights, for the government to provide proactive and reactive mechanisms towards safeguarding the safety of journalists and combat impunity for crimes against journalists in line with the UNESCO Plan of Action.
In addition, the GPU continues to work with partners to roll out safety training programs for journalists while initiating dialogue with Gambian politicians and security personnel.