Bad media laws must go

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has done a valuable service for telling The Gambia to repeal bad media laws from its constitution.

It is a welcome move and must be greeted with an open arm by all proponents of press freedom and democracy.

Freedom of expression is a universal human right. It is not the prerogative of the politician. Nor is it the privilege of the journalist. In their day-to-day work, journalists are simply exercising every citizen’s right to free speech.

A free press is fundamental to a democratic society. It seeks out and circulates news, information, ideas, comment and opinion and holds those in authority to account. The press provides the platform for a multiplicity of voices to be heard. At national, regional and local level, it is the public’s watchdog, activist and guardian as well as educator, entertainer and contemporary chronicler.

The right to freedom of speech and expression including the freedom of the press and other media as well as the independence of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia, 1997.

The constitution recognises in its core that the protection of democracy requires a free society where people are able to express themselves, seek, receive and impart information and ideas and that the media must be free to carry out its work unhindered. This ensures that the democratic principles of accountability and transparency are upheld.

In May 2017, The Gambia Press Union has handed over to the government through the Ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure its Position Paper in which the union demands repeal of draconian media laws that impedes media freedom in this country.  

The paper examines the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997, international treaties and conventions and other instruments binding on The Gambia and the extent to which local statutes affect the media and freedom of speech and expression.

While handing the paper on behalf of the union, Saikou Jammeh, secretary general of The Gambia Press Union (GPU) said that the position paper represents the hopes and aspirations of journalists in The Gambia.

According to him, the GPU is a very enthusiastic group which is not guided by the fear of the past, but by the hopes and promises that the new government has view them, whiles expressing hope that The Gambia would be the beacon of light in term of democracy.

Minister Demba Jawo responded with assurance that the government would critically look and address the demands of The Gambia Press Union (GPU).

Since only very little has been done until ECOWAS Court has to come in defence of The Gambia media, we only appeal to the better nature of our angels and hope that all will go fine for the media.

“repeal bad media laws from the constitution.”

The Point