Jan 30, 2015, 10:06 AM
The leader of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) party, Mai Ahmad Fatty, has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly requesting, among others, the need for parliament to repeal what he calls “obnoxious legislation” that militate against free speech and the press in the country.
In a letter sent to the Speaker, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, and copied to the media, Fatty said, in a democracy, “which the APRC Government claims to be”, laws relating to the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005 and the Newspaper (Amendment) Act 2004 have no reason to survive.
This statement by the GMC leader comes two weeks after the call by the Gambia Press Union for a repeal of draconian media laws, stressing that such laws continue to cripple free speech in The Gambia.
Below we reproduce the full text of the GMC letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly:
I wish to bring to your attention again the urgent need for your party in power to repeal Section 3 of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005 and the Newspaper (Amendment) Act, 2004.
In a democracy, which the APRC Government claims to be, these laws have no reason to survive. Freedom of Speech is an entrenched provision that no authority can take away nor deny its practical exercise.
Nonetheless, Freedom of speech will be meaningless without Freedom of the Press.
No nation can claim to be a genuine democracy without a viable Fourth Estate. I am supported in this assertion by section 207 (3) of the Constitution which states: “The press and other information media shall at all times, be free to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of The Gambia.”
Section 25(1) of the Constitution stipulates “freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of speech and other media”.
Indeed section 207(1) of the Constitution also guarantees that “Every person shall have the right to freedom and independence of the press, and other information media.”
I would add that the online media is protected under this provision, and there should be no further justification for blockage.
Hon. Speaker, nearly two decades ago, your party (APRC) came to power on the wings of transparency, probity and accountability. Notwithstanding, Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2005, and the Newspaper (Amendment) Act, 2004 continue to suffocate both free speech and a free press.
GMC strongly urges you, together with the Majority Leader, to consider as an urgent priority the repeal of all obnoxious legislation that militate against free speech and press during, and not later than the next Legislative Session.
In the same spirit, I also urge you to consider a Resolution on the House Floor, encouraging your party in power to reopen the Independent Newspaper, which was closed by your Government since the 28th of March 2006. No reasons were given for its closure.
Hon. Speaker, in making these requests, I would like to remind you of your Oath of Office.
In the interest of transparency, which your party claims is the cornerstone of your philosophy, I shall publish this letter for the public’s right to know.
Mai Ahmad Fatty
GMC Party Leader
Cc: Vice President and Head of Government Business in Parliament