GPU, IRI sensitise legislators on Media Reform Laws

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) and International Republican Institute (IRI) on Friday April 27, 2018, sensitised the National Assembly Members (NAMS) on a 2 days Media Reform Laws at a local, Kololi.

The workshop was aimed at building the understanding of NAMs on issues highlighted in the legal position paper, and freedom of information document as well to have the NAMs critically examine and scrutinise the papers and make further inputs.

It was also meant to align the objectives with the new government legal reforms processes and enhance NAMs’ understanding.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Demba Ali Jawo, said that freedom of the press should not be regarded simply as the freedom of journalists, editors or proprietors alone to report and comment.

Adding that rather it should be regarded as the embodiment of the public’s right to know and to participate in the free flow of information.

“The media are at the cutting edge of civic engagement and as such, the NAMs in partnership with the executive have the responsibility to remove legal and institutional obstacles and other measures to develop a fully informed society to allow for free and responsible media,” he said.

The minister further emphasised that submissions on media law reforms that his ministry would be presenting to lawmakers are borne out of the urgent need to remove obstacles to the dissemination of information and a plurality of opinions.

“Archaic laws that remain on the statute books can be and have been used to stifle the media in the past and in return the free flow of information,” he stressed.

He added that they were abused by the former authorities in cases that reached further than the original intention behind the legislation or where the circumstances in which the law was drafted, no longer applied.

Deputising the speaker of the National Assembly, Bakary Camara, said that this is part of the government’s growing interest in entrenching democracy and good governance in the country.

“Role of a free but responsible media is indeed not only crucial but also indispensable in emerging democracies like ours,” he said.

He also lamented on the fact that some of the laws that remain in the statue books are not favourable for the media to operate effectively.

“It is important to note that The Gambia is a signatory to many international covenants that strongly protect the fundamental human rights of freedom of the media and that of expression,” he noted.

He said: “The media’s right to objectively express constructive opinion, as well as to report accurately, must be guaranteed and no legislation should be enacted by the National Assembly which impinges on that right.

He, however, noted that freedom of expression does not guarantee the media to grossly infringes on the rights of others.

Author: Fatou B. Cham