The Gambia Press Union executive

By Adama Makasuba

Gambian journalists on Friday intensified their calls for the government to repeal the bad media laws in the statute books that continue to hamper their work.

Hundreds of journalists including veterans gathered at the law faculty of the University of the Gambia to celebrate the 2019 International Press Freedom Day.

Speaking at the event, Sheriff Bojang Jnr, president of Gambia Press Union said “the Gambia Press Union will not relent until these (bad) laws are all out of the way and the atmosphere and environment is conducive enough for journalists to operate.”

He reiterated the continuing fight of Gambian journalists to repealing all the draconian media laws in the constitution through engagement with the Gambia government.

Despite recognizing the commitment of the Barrow-led government to press freedom and freedom of expression, Mr. Bojang said the commitments would be futile if “they are not implemented and put into practice.”

“What guarantee ladies and gentlemen do we have that the government and the next president who come in the future would have the same goodwill to what we do?” he asked.

He expressed dismay about lack of access to information in the country, adding that “State House, the highest seat of the land, when it comes to lack of access for journalists is the biggest culprit.”

He said journalist’s access to the presidency has been limited, saying “access to information in this country needs a lot to be desired and the government needs to reconsider this issue and improve on it.”

The director of Amnesty International-West Africa, Mrs Marie Petrus Barry, said despite the decline of “human rights violation” in the country, they are still “worried” about some issues, adding that Amnesty has shared some of those concerns with the Gambia government.

 “We asked the government to repeal and bring in conformity with international and regional human rights obligations of the effective laws to the rights of freedom of assembly and association,” she said.

Mrs Barry added “We urge the government to publicly instruct the anti-crime unit of the Gambia police force, army and the state intelligent agency to end unlawful arrest and detention and practically not to detain people beyond 72 hours as provided in the Gambian constitution.”

During the 22-years of repressive rule under former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, journalists were subjected to arbitrary arrest and disappearance without trace.

On May 9, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Gambia ruled that criminal “defamation”, “libel” and “false news online” are unconstitutional.

However, the court upheld that “false publication and broadcasting” law as constitutional, and scrap in part the coverage of “sedition” law to only protect the President of the Republic and administration of justice.

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